Does God Exist?
St. Thomas Aquinas
The Existence of God
(In Three Articles)
Because the chief aim of sacred doctrine is to teach the knowledge of God, not only as He is in Himself, but also as He is the beginning of things and their last end, and especially of rational creatures, as is clear from what has been already said, therefore, in our endeavor to expound this science, we shall treat: (1) Of God, (2) Of the rational creature's advance towards God; (3) Of Christ, Who as man, is our way to God.
In treating of God there will be a threefold division:For we shall consider (1) Whatever concerns the Divine Essence; (2) Whatever concerns the distinctions of Persons; (3) Whatever concerns the procession of creatures from Him.
Concerning the Divine Essence, we must consider:(1) Whether God exists? (2) The manner of His existence, or, rather, what is not the manner of His existence; (3) Whatever concerns His operationsnamely, His knowledge, will, power.
Concerning the first, there are three points of inquiry:(1) Whether the proposition "God exists" is self-evident? (2) Whether it is demonstrable? (3) Whether God exists?
Whether the Existence of God Is Self-Evident?
We proceed thus to the First Article:Objection 1. It seems that the existence of God is self-evident. Now those things are said to be self-evident to us the knowledge of which is naturally implanted in us, as we can see in regard to first principles. But as Damascene says (De Fid. Orth. i. 1, 3), the knowledge of God is naturally implanted in all. Therefore the existence of God is self-evident.
Obj. 2. Further, those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known, which the Philosopher (1 Poster. iii) says is true of the first principles of demonstration. Thus, when the nature of a whole and of a part is known, it is at once recognized that every whole is greater than its part. But as soon as the signification of the word "God" is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word "God" is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition "God exists" is self-evident.
Obj. 3. Further, the existence of truth is self-evident. For whoever denies the existence of truth grants that truth does not exist: and, if truth does not exist, then the proposition "Truth does not exist" is true: and if there is anything true, there must be truth. But God is truth itself: I am the way, the truth, and the life (John xiv. 6). Therefore "God exists" is self-evident.
On the contrary, No one can mentally admit the opposite of what is self-evident; as the Philosopher (Metaph. iv., lect. vi) states concerning the first principles of demonstration. But the opposite of the proposition "God is" can be mentally admitted: The fool said in his heart, There is no God (Ps. lii. 1). Therefore, that God exists is not self-evident.
I answer that, A thing can be self-evident in either of two ways; on the one hand, self-evident in itself, though not to us; on the other, self-evident in itself, and to us. A proposition is self-evident because the predicate is included in the essence of the subject, as "Man is an animal," for animal is contained in the essence of man. If, therefore the essence of the predicate and subject be known to all, the proposition will be self-evident to all; as is clear with regard to the first principles of demonstration, the terms of which are common things that no one is ignorant of, such as being and non-being, whole and part, and such like. If, however, there are some to whom the essence of the predicate and subject is unknown, the proposition will be self-evident in itself, but not to those who do not know the meaning of the predicate and subject of the proposition. Therefore, it happens, as Boethius says (Hebdom., the title of which is: "Whether all that is, is good"), "that there are some mental concepts self-evident only to the learned, as that incorporeal substances are not in space." Therefore I say that this proposition, "God exists," of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject; because God is His own existence as will be hereafter shown (Q. 3, A. 4). Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be, demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their naturenamely, by effects.
Reply Obj. 1. To know that God exists in a general and confused way is implanted in us by nature, inasmuch as God is man's beatitude. For man naturally desires happiness and what is naturally desired by man must be naturally known to him. This, however, is not to know absolutely that God exists; just as to know that someone is approaching is not the same as to know that Peter is approaching, even though it is Peter who is approaching; for many there are who imagine that man's perfect good which is happiness, consists in riches, and others in pleasures, and others in something else.
Reply Obj. 2. Perhaps not everyone who hears this word "God" understands it to signify something than which nothing greater can be thought, seeing that some have believed God to be a body. Yet, granted that everyone understands that by this word "God" is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist.
Reply Obj. 3. The existence of truth in general is self-evident but the existence of a Primal Truth is not self-evident to us.
Whether It Can Be Demonstrated That God Exists?
We proceed thus to the Second Article:Objection 1. It seems that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated. For it is an article of faith that God exists. But what is of faith cannot be demonstrated, because a demonstration produces scientific knowledge; whereas faith is of the unseen (Heb. xi. 1). Therefore it cannot be demonstrated that God exists.
Obj. 2. Further, the essence is the middle term of demonstration. But we cannot know in what God's essence consists, but solely in what it does not consist; as Damascene says (De Fid. Orth. i. 4). Therefore we cannot demonstrate that God exists.
Obj. 3. Further, if the existence of God were demonstrated, this could only be from His effects. But His effects are not proportionate to Him, since He is infinite and His effects are finite; and between the finite and infinite there is no proportion. Therefore, since a cause cannot be demonstrated by an effect not proportionate to it, it seems that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated.
On the contrary, The Apostle says: The in visible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (Rom. i 20). But this would not be unless the existence of God could be demonstrated through the things that are made; for the first thing we must know of anything is, whether it exists.
I answer that, Demonstration can be made in two ways: One is through the cause, and is called "a priori," and this is to argue from what is prior absolutely. The other is through the effect, and is called a demonstration "a posteriori;" this is to argue from what is prior relatively only to us. When an effect is better known to us than its cause, from the effect we proceed to the knowledge of the cause. And from every effect the existence of its proper cause can be demonstrated, so long as its effects are better known to us; because since every effect depends upon its cause, if the effect exists, the cause must pre-exist. Hence the existence of God, in so far as it is not self-evident to us, can be demonstrated from those of His effects which are known to us
Reply Obj. 1. The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles, for faith presupposes natural knowledge, even as grace presupposes nature, and perfection supposes something that can be perfected. Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent a man, who cannot grasp a proof, accepting, as a matter of faith, something which in itself is capable of being scientifically known and demonstrated.
Reply Obj. 2. When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause's existence. This is especially the case in regard to God, because, in order to prove the existence of anything, it is necessary to accept as a middle term the meaning of the word, and not its essence, for the question of its essence follows on the question of its existence. Now the names given to God are derived from His effects, consequently, in demonstrating the existence of God from His effects, we may take for the middle term the meaning of the word "God."
Reply Obj. 3. From effects not proportionate to the cause no perfect knowledge of that cause can be obtained. Yet from every effect the existence of the cause can be clearly demonstrated, and so we can demonstrate the existence of God from His effects, though from them we cannot perfectly know God as He is in His essence.
Whether God Exists?
We proceed thus to the Third Article:Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist, because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.
Obj. 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle, which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle, which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence.
On the contrary, It is said in the person of God: I am Who am (Exod. iii. 14).
I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways.
The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e., that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause. be several, or one only. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.
The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existencewhich is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.
The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest, and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in "Meteph. ii." Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.
The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.
Reply Obj 1. As Augustine says (Enchir. xi): Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil. This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.
Reply Obj. 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change and fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.
A COMPANION TO THE SUMMA
Walter Farrell O.P., S.T.D., S.T.M.
Volume IThe Architect of the Universe
He Who Is
1. Beginners and the beginning:
(a) The mystery and difficulty of beginnings.
(b) Difficulty for beginners.
(c) Reasons for a beginning:
(1) Their modernity:
a. Objections against them.
b. Their perennial strength.
(2) Their completeness.
2. Preliminary notions to proof of the beginning:
(a) Potentiality and actuality.
(b) Change: potential, process and product.
(c) Limitations of proofs of existence.
3. The five proofs:
(a) From passivitymotion.
(b) From activitycausality.
(c) From defectibilitycontingency.
(d) From perfectionparticipation.
(e) From orderfinality.
4. Characteristics of the proofs:
(a) A posteriori arguments.
(b) Not cumulative but independently sufficient.
(c) Strictly limited to the evidence.
(d) Foundations of the deductive tract on the nature of God.
1. Significance of the proofs.
2. Real mystery of beginnings.
3. Allegedly non-mysterious substitutes.
He Who Is
It is more than the perennial vigor of human hope that makes human life a long process of constant beginnings. A beginning never becomes a prosaic thing, though we see its counterparts on all sides every day; it is in itself glamorous, enticing, irresistible, for it is in itself mysterious. The feeble spark of young life in a mother's womb, the first tentative plan of the architect, the first step of the infant, the first scribbled words of a book fascinate us. They swing open doors and we cannot resist straining our eyes to peer down the long corridors of the future they reveal to us. It is not an explanation of this attraction to say that this moment of beginning is tightly packed with love's rewards, love's labors and love's hopes. It is all of this; but it is much more It is that inexplicable thing that we call mystery, the thing that calls our minds out on the long road along whose winding way the explanation of the mystery may be found.
The woman who gives birth to a child is not only a cause of a wondrous effect, she herself has become what she was not before, a mother. It is not only the marble under the sculptor's chisel that has become something new; the sculptor has undergone a process of becoming in producing his masterpiece, he has fulfilled a formerly unfulfilled capacity within himself. For in these human beginnings the process of becoming wraps its arms around both cause and effect to pile wonder on wonder and yet leave the mystery intact, the mystery of the beginning of that which becomes both in the cause and the effect, the mystery of the beginning not of becoming but of being itself.
Beginnings are not only mysterious, they are also difficult. Perhaps it is because they are mysterious that beginnings are so hard; at least, it is a fact that it is always difficult to begin at the beginning. That is a divine way of doing things, the divine way that made the Son of God start human life as an infant. For divinity itself is the Beginning and is naturally careful of beginnings, even of human beginnings which are but fragments gathered up from the feasts of the past. Surely the Catholic Doctor must be careful, even exhaustively careful, of beginnings: so careful that his works must be aimed, not merely at the learned or saintly, but at those humble beginners who are his particular care as an exponent of the things that pertain to God.
Beginnings are hard for us even when we ourselves are capable, the material on which we work is apt, and the work we have to do is no more than to coax to full bloom hidden beauties in the material and in ourselves. To our minds, the uncreated beginning faced the extreme difficulty, not of drawing out hidden powers, but of establishing that which is. Beginners in the way of God, which is to say beginners in the way of human living, face a man-made difficulty that springs from the reluctance of their teachers to begin at the beginning, a difficulty that is only hinted at when we call it a lack of order in the presentation of truth. That reluctance is not difficult to understand: there is an attractive, though completely false, air of excitement in dodging difficult, shutting one's eyes to mystery and plunging into the middle of things.
That excitement has so gripped the modern mind that the beginning of things has become irritating to the point of consuming much of modern energy just in the elimination of it. These reasons for a beginning, which are sometimes called the proofs for the existence of God, have been excluded on the grounds that the human intellect cannot be trusted outside the boundaries of direct sense experience. Of course, many other objections have been made to them: scientific objections, such as their pitiful dependence on an Aristotelian science long since defunct; they are not the product of scientific investigation; they are in evident conflict with the history of religion and the theory of evolution, both of which show that the Christian God is a very modern luxury.
If the philosopher's patience is worn thin enough, he may protest that the results of such proofs are meaningless, devoid of qualitative content; which means this philosopher has been much too lazy to think. In desperation, the philosopher may simply toss the proofs out the window regardless of their truth or falsehood; the God they speak of is of no value or service to humanity. And this will be a philosopher who takes all the important things for granted.
These proofs may be a nuisance to one who tries, philosophically, to keep up with the times at whatever cost; but they cannot be denied modernity if by modern we mean to occupy a place in the minds and words of men of our day. They are strong enough, independent enough, to live through this age and all ages. They ask no favors. They ask only what cannot be deniedand then make the most of it.
Specifically these proofs for the existence of God start with a simplicity worthy of the divinity they demonstrate, demanding just two things: a fact evident to the senses and the first principles of the intellect. Understand, now, this sensible fact is not carefully selected, difficult to see or subject to controversy; but an obvious, tangible reality of experience, such a fact as the wink of an eye, the birth of a child, the withering of a leaf, the beauty of a face or the smooth flight of a bird. The first principles of knowledge demanded are only those fundamentals without which intellectual operation of any kind is impossible, the principles which are the rock bottom of being as well as of thought and without which science itself is invalid, nay unthinkable. In thoroughly modern fashion, these reasons proceed carefully, cautiously, adhering strictly to the evidence in hand. They are not dependent on a system of science, a weight of tradition or subjective dispositions to make their way in the world. They are genuine.
The proofs for the existence of God do not belong on the dubious fringe of philosophy but in a place of honor; they have fought a bitter battle in defense of the intellect of man. A complete treatment of the existence of a beginning of things must always be a three-sided fight which must be won on all fronts or the intellect is lost. On one side are the champions of the ineptitude of man who insist that man's one distinctive power of intellect has no intrinsic value; of course it cannot prove the existence of God. At the opposite extreme is the camp of optimists and emotionalists, one group insisting the existence of God needs no proof since it is self-evident, the other tacitly admitting the intellectual incapacity of man but holding for an emotional assurance of the Supreme Being. In the middle, carrying the brunt of the offensive today, are those who champion man by destroying God, claiming there is no God, at least no such God as the Christians worship.
The fight is bitter. Because not all men and women have the appetite for fighting, or the time and ability to carry on the fight to the end, and because so very much hangs on the outcome of the battle, infallible authority has come forth to protect those who by force of circumstance are non-combatants. By that authority, the man who cannot follow the intricacies of proof, either by reason of inability or lack of leisured time, knows beyond question that the reason of man, by its own power, can certainly know the existence of God and that God, the supreme Being, certainly exists.
The gesture of authority is necessary, not because the truth it defends is beyond the range of the guns of reason, but because it is essential that every man know of God's existence for his individual life, just as it is essential for the world about man that God exist. The thinker who has seen and grasped the proof has no need of authority; he holds that truth by a clear insight into a natural truth. This man can prove the existence of God; by that proof he has also shown that the existence of God is not self-evident, it does not rest on an emotional assurance, it does not escape the powers of the mind of man. It is a proved fact.
Of course this man did not arrive at the proof of the existence of God effortlessly, as he might come to the point of raising a beard. The proof demands hard work, the hard work of thinking; certainly this man would have to have some preliminary notions accurately in mind before he could take a step towards the proof itself.
There is, for instance, the simple, but decidedly abstract notion of potentiality and actuality, a notion that is perhaps grasped more easily by seeing it in the complex notion of change. Let us look at these notions in a rather clumsy example. Let us take a large, perfectly plain block of marble; then put a sculptor to work on it and have him make a statue of that block of marble. We say, rightly, that in the original marble block there is the potentiality of becoming a statue, the principle or aptitude for receiving this further perfection, the quality of being changed. It may be worth noting that by "perfection" here we mean any respect in which a thing can be completed or become more determinate in its being. When the process is complete, that potentiality has been realized, the marble block has become a statue.
We call this process of realizing potentialities "becoming," and whole philosophies have been built upon it. More simply, we call it "change;" in its positive form we give it the name of "development." Whatever we call it, it is nothing more or less than the motion from potentiality to actuality, from the mere capability of receiving perfection to the perfection received. This is motion in its widest sense; it takes place in every change, of canvas and tubes of paint into a masterpiece, of a farmhand into a doctor of medicine, of an acorn into an oak, as well as in a journey from Chicago to New York. Obviously, this process of change involves three things: (1) a potential or starting point which is prior to the change and contains the potentiality, a thing which is already something but with the capacity for becoming something else, for receiving an added perfection; (2) the reality of the process or movement of change which proceeds from the potential to the actual; (3) the product of the change, the actual needed perfection. It is essential that we hold fast to the obvious fact of a distinct difference between the potentiality and its goal of realization. If this difference be denied, we are forced into a denial of both ends of a change, potentialities and actualities, or into an identification of these two. In either case we are in the impossible position of holding to a motion as eerie as a faceless smile, a motion that has come from nowhere and goes nowhere, or of holding to the absurdity that contradictories are identical, that there is no distinction between the undeveloped and the developed, between farmhands and doctors, marble blocks and statues.
The particular value of clarity in this notion of change lies in the fact that it brings out the complete necessity of explaining every realized potentiality, every perfection. by an explanation external to the realized potentiality itself. It makes more obvious the truth that a developed perfection is not its own explanation. it has not developed itself, nor is it explained by the potentiality which it perfected.
Another value, for our purpose of proving the existence of God, is had from the difference this process of becoming, or change, brings out between the action of God and of creatures. It is on the basis of this process of becoming that we argue from effects to causes in created causes and their effects. Where the cause is divine, the fundamental question remains the same, that is, the explanation of a perfection that is not self-explanatory, that has not produced itself. In this latter case, however, it is not a question of a cause drawing a potentiality to perfection, but of a cause producing that which possesses the potentialities. In a word. the question in this case is not of the cause of becoming (or change) but of the cause of being itself; the transition is not from potentiality to actualization of potentiality, but from non-being to being.
One other preliminary notion that must be clarified before proceeding to the actual proofs for the existence of God is the limitation of all proofs for existence. As a matter of fact, there arc only two possibilities for proof of the existence of anything: the direct proof offered by sense experience, such as a man has of the existence of a door by ramming his nose against it; and the inferential or a posteriori proof, such as a detective might have of the existence of a murderer when he finds an armless paralytic dangling on a four-foot rope from a rafter fifteen feet above the floor. The detective, by his type of proof, may never come to more than an extremely great probability because it may be impossible to rule out all possibilities other than murder. Where it is possible to rule out all other possibilities, this proof by inference, the a posteriori proof, gives complete certitude.
No other proof of existence is possible, no "a priori" proof is valid, because existence in no way enters into the very nature of created things; we cannot argue from the nature of things to their existence, as we can argue from the nature of man to the spirituality of his soul. As we shall see, when the proof for God's existence is completed, existence does enter into the very nature of God; but we cannot presuppose that when starting off on the task of proving God does exist. In other words, a conclusion about existence cannot be drawn from premises which do not assert the existence of anything; to assert the existence of something in the conclusion of a line of reasoning, you must assert the existence of something somewhere among the premises.
The contrary is the sophism inherent in all "a priori" or ontological proofs for God's existence, the sophism which Kant attributed to all proofs for God's existence. He argued that some concept of God is essential at the start of any proof for the existence of God and such a concept includes the notion of God's existence. Kant is right, of course, in maintaining that some concept of God is necessary from the very beginning of these proofs; after all, the proofs are trying to prove something. But it is quite enough, for the purpose of the proofs, that that concept be no more than a statement of the absence of contradiction between God and existence; in other words, that concept, required to begin the proofs, need be no more than a construct which demands only the possibility of the union of the subject and predicate in the proposition "God exists."
Experience assures us emphatically that we do not have a direct sense knowledge of God's existence. When, in the course of this volume, we learn more about the divine nature, we shall see why we cannot have a sense knowledge of God. For the present, it is sufficient to accept the dictum of experience and concentrate our efforts along the only line of proof left open to us, the inferential or a posteriori proof, the proof of the cause from the effects.
The first proof proceeds from the fact of motion or, to put the same thing in another way, from the fact of the passivity of things. Its extremely simple formulation can be made in these terms: because nothing that is moved moves or changes itself, the unquestionable fact of movement or change in the world about us, forces us to conclude to the existence of a first mover who is not himself moved. That is all of the proof. Its very brevity is reason enough for a somewhat lengthy explanation of it.
The phrase, "nothing moves or changes itself," means only that a thing cannot be, relative to the same goal, merely movable and already moved, merely changeable and already changed; for the starting point and the goal of the process of becoming are necessarily different. The mere aptitude for receiving motion is not its own completion. The common sense fundamental back of this phrase, then, is simply that what is not possessed cannot be bestowed; and the very notion of potentiality is the absence of perfection that can be possessed but so far is not, for, unless we maintain that contraries are identical, a potentiality is not its actualization.
Actually this argument goes back a step farther, beyond the cause of change to the cause of that which is changed, back of the cause of becoming to the cause of being. For the immediate cause of change alone is itself in the process of becoming by its very causality; the mover of a potentially movable thing is himself moved by the very movement by which he moves this thing, he becomes something other than he was. The peddler does something to himself as well as to his pushcart when he bends his strength to its movement. Unless we come to a cause that produces that which is subject to change, to a cause that does not itself become something other than it was, the process of becoming or change cannot start. Briefly, what is in question here is not the process of motion, but the existence of that perfection which is motion.
It is obvious, then, that the term "mover" is used of the first and of secondary movers not in an identical, but only in a proportional, sense; for the first mover is the cause of being and is himself unchanged, while secondary movers are causes of change and are themselves changed in their action. It is to this unique first mover that the argument concludes.
A not uncommon fallacy today is to suppose that since this particular movement is caused by another, this latter by another, and so on, there is no need for further explanation since it is taken for granted that the world is eternal. From this point of view, since you can never come to the end of the chain of movers, there is no mystery about the present movement. The fallacy lies in the fact that without a beginning the whole thing could not start; no one of these previous movers is sufficient explanation of itself and its effect on others, yet a sufficient explanation must be found if the fact of movement is to be intelligible, if we are not to have something coming from nothing. The haze of distance or the weight of time do not do away with the necessity of explanation any more than they offer a positive explanation. To be satisfied with this is to be satisfied with the removal of the question to more obscure quarters, comforted by its consequent vagueness. The plain fact is that unless we come to a mover that is in no way dependent we have not explained the existence of the movers who are undoubtedly dependent either for their actual movement or for the power to move; where the effects are patently present the cause ultimately explaining them is not to be denied.
Two things are to be particularly noted about this first proof for the existence of God: the narrowness of the conclusion and the independence of the argument from the element of time. The argument adheres rigidly to the limits of its premises; it concludes to a first mover unmovedand to nothing more. There is nothing more which can be concluded from the sensible fact of motion with which the argument started. Because there is movement, there is a cause of cosmic movement which is itself unmoved. The argument is not a sputtering flame to be extinguished by the simple expedient of blanketing it with centuries. There is no question here of movement beginning in time. It is not a question of a present reality demanding a cause in the past. It is simply a question of the universe as given, movement or change as experienced, and the conclusion that such a movement or change is unintelligible without a first mover communicating movement to all things. Time makes no difference. If the eternity of the world were to be proved tomorrow beyond all doubt, this proof would be in no way affected; the fact of change is there, the effect is with us, its cause cannot be denied.
The background for the other four proofs is exactly the same as for this first one. Keeping the preliminary notions, explained above, well in mind and holding to the detailed explanation of this first proof, the others can be seen readily. The point at issue is always the same: the existence of perfection that did not previously exist.
The second proof proceeds from causality or the activity of things. Here it is a question of the existence of an efficient cause, the external agent by whose operation a thing exists, the question of the existence of the hen that laid an egg, of the thunderbolt which struck a man dead, the storm that has battered a ship into helplessness. The starting point is again the sensible world.
We see in that sensible world an order of efficient causes dependent one on the other for their causalitythe powder which propels the shell, which in turn crashes into a storage tank of gasoline, and this throwing out a sheet of flame in the heart of a city, and so on. We find nothing that is the cause of itself. Precisely because of this impossibility of a cause causing itself, the efficient causes of the sensible world force the conclusion upon us that a first efficient cause exists which is itself uncaused.
Here it is said that it is impossible for a cause to cause itself for the same fundamental reason as was exposed in the first argument, namely, because the starting point and the goal of change, the potentiality and its realization, cannot be identical. Otherwise we are identifying opposites, saying that the potentiality is the actuality. Here again, as in the first proof, the argument is really stronger than it looks; for the only alternative is not merely identifying opposites, it is identifying non-reality with reality, non-being with being, for the transition is not from potentiality to actuality but from the purely privative condition of nothingness to existence. Here again it must be noted that the term "cause" is used, not identically, but proportionally, of the first and secondary causes.
A difficulty may be offered to this argument, the difficulty of living causes where the dependence is not so immediately obvious. And the answer is that no one living cause explains the efficacy of the species to which it belongs and from which it derives its power to cause. Yet that efficacy must have its explanation. Infinite regress get us nowhere: without the first uncaused cause there will be no effects produced by any cause no matter how many eons are placed between the beginning of things and the world of today. It is not a question of time, nor is the question made more difficult by adding on a few million years to the age of the world. Again attention must be called to the strict adherence of the conclusion to the evidence in hand: the argument concludes to the existence of a cause that is itself uncaused, nothing more. Either of these two arguments is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of God; their effectiveness is not a matter of accumulative evidence. They are merely different angles, shafts of light focusing on the same spectacle of divinity but taking their rise from different starting points in the sensible world.
The third proof proceeds from our experience of the contingency or defectibility of things. It can be stated briefly like this: if any beings exist whose essence is not one with their existence (that is, which are contingent), then a being exists whose essence is its existence (that is, an absolutely necessary being). The fact is that in the world about us we see things that can have or lose existence, that begin to exist and cease to exist, that are born and that die. If everything were of this nature, that is if existence is not essentially natural to anything, then nothing would ever exist; which is patently false in view of the existing world. The argument proceeds as do the preceding ones: if things are capable of beginning to exist or of ceasing to exist, then, since they do in fact exist and cease to exist, that capability is fulfilled, that potentiality is realized, and a potentiality cannot realize itself. Much less can nothingness produce that which is the subject of realized potentialities.
The objection of physically necessary substances is answered as was the fundamental objection to the preceding arguments. No such physically necessary being explains its own necessity but receives it (an actualized potentiality). So the necessity of the species is not explained by the species itself; "a multitude of contingent things do not make a necessary thing any more than a multitude of idiots make one intelligent man." This necessity must be explained by a necessary being that does not receive necessity, but that is its necessity. Again the element of time makes no difference. An infinite chain of beings that receive their necessity, or of beings which are not necessary, neither complicates nor explains the difficulty; it merely attempts to dodge the problem by hiding under the accumulation of immediate causes or the accumulation of the years.
These first three proofs have argued to the existence of God from the passivity, the activity and the contingency of things. The fourth proof argues from the perfection of things. But the argument still proceeds from the world of reality, not necessarily the world of sense experience, sense impressions, but nonetheless from the world of reality. For the real world also includes the things we understand as well as the things we feel, such things as love, justice, friendship, things that we can never grow in the garden or meet on the street but which are, for all that, decidedly realities.
The perfections in question here are only the absolute perfections that carry the note of perfection in themselves, not the relative which are perfections only because of their order to something else. Examples of such absolute perfections are animality, rationality, life, existence. And these can be roughly classified by stressing the point that they are in themselves either strictly limited or completely limitless.
As examples of the strictly limited, we may mention animality or humanity. A man is no less an animal than a lion; nor has a sickly boy less humanity than a strapping giant. These things imply definitely fixed limits. They either are or are not fully possessed; there is never any question of having a little or a great deal of them. To exceed or to fall away from the fixed limit means the complete loss of that perfection. As examples of the limitless perfections, there are life, goodness, existence, and so on. If there are limits to these perfections in this or that individual or species, the limitation does not come from the perfection itself. We note the source of the limitation in our very manner of speech when we speak of human life and animal life, though it never occurs to us to speak of human rationality or animal animality.
Since it is precisely from these unlimited perfections that the proof of the existence of God proceeds, it may be worth while pointing out some of their characteristics. Perhaps the most noticeable is that these perfections are possessed by different kinds of being in an analogous, not an identical, way; thus, for instance, we speak of a good stone, a good fruit, a good horse or a good professor according as each has its due perfection. Obviously the goodness of the professor is not identically the same as the goodness of fruit. There is proportionality there, but not identity The second particularly noteworthy characteristic is that these perfections are realizable in different degrees; thus, in the course of one lifetime a man may be bad, of mediocre virtue, of more than average virtue, and ultimately a saint.
The fourth proof for the existence of God can be stated succinctly. In the world about us we see these perfections existing in things in greater and lesser degrees: that is, we see things that are more and less good, more and less true, and so on; we see life within human limits, animal limits, plant limits. Now these limited degrees of limitless perfections can be explained only by the existence of something to which these perfections pertain in their fullness, something which does not possess this or that degree of goodness, truth, life, but which is, by its very nature, limitless goodness, limitless truth, limitless life.
Certainly these limited degrees of limitless perfections are not explained by the natures which possess them. For what flows from the essential principles of a nature is had in its fullness; humanity is not something a man achieves after a long struggle. Moreover, perfections which flow from nature do not vary: the spoiled lapdog is not less animal as the days pass, the puppy does not grow into his animality. Yet, as a matter of fact, in the world about us these limitless perfections of goodness, life and the rest are not had in their fullness and they vary with an infinite variety.
The explanation, then, must be sought outside of the natures which possess a limited edition of a limitless virtue, that is, in some extrinsic source which has the perfection perfectly. Otherwise we meet the fundamental obstacle erected by an identification of contraries, of a potentiality bringing about its own realization, indeed, of the absence of perfection bringing about the presence of perfection. In a word, these limited editions of limitless virtues are received virtues; in the ultimate analysis, they are explicable only by some being who has not received them but to whom they belong, in their limitlessness, by the very nature of that being. Nor is this a question of a jump from the ideal to the real order. These effectshuman life, the goodness of a manare decidedly in the real order. It is not a matter of having an ideal rule by which we may measure these perfections; but of having a real, existing cause by whose action these realities have been brought into being.
This fourth proof proceeded from multiplicity to unity, from the multiplicity of shared or received perfections to the unity of essentially possessed perfection. The fifth proof proceeds from an ordered multiplicity to an ordering unity. The order of the world, which is at the starting point of this proof, furnished one of the most constant evidences of the existence of God to men through the ages It appealed to Greek poets and philosophers; in unphilosophic form it was preserved in the Sacred Writings of the Jews; primitive peoples appealed to it in their origin myths. It has been not only one of the most ancient of the proofs but one of the most popular. It has been accepted as genuine by the uneducated who were unable to follow its philosophical implications; and, at the same time, was the only proof given a measure of respect by the great Kant.
It was perhaps to be expected that modern philosophy, with its contempt for the past should most strenuously assail this particular proof. Some will say that it was destroyed by the theory of evolution which, telling a tale of the process of development, made unnecessary all explanation of the beginning of that process. Again, the facts of reality are said to be adequately explained by blind chance or by necessity. We shall look at these last two modern (and ancient) objections more closely after we have seen the proof itself.
The fifth proof for the existence of God proceeds just as did the other four, demanding no more, resting on just as solid a foundation. It has the same starting point of facts in the world in which we live; it makes use of the same fundamental principle of reason and of things, namely, that opposites are not identical. Here the point in question is the existence of an order; the search for its explanation leads us to a supreme intelligence.
The argument might be phrased briefly like this. In the world about us we see things devoid of intelligence acting for an end, a fact which is evident from their always, or generally, acting in the same orderly way to attain that which is best for them. Evidently these actions are placed, not by accident, but on purpose. As things devoid of intelligence do not act for an end unless they be directed by some intelligence, we must conclude that a supreme intelligence exists which directs all natural things to their end.
An immediately obvious difficulty against this argument seems to be that it presumes the order of the world; this order is by no means a fact of experience. If there is such an order in the world, we have not discovered it yet. As a matter of fact, this objection has its roots in the lush soil of confusion, the confusion of external and internal finality. To solve the mystery of external finality we would have to know all the answers to such questions as the external reason for the bite of a mosquito, the existence of a snake, the destruction wrought by a hurricane. We simply do not know these things; certainly we do not know all of them and probably we never shall. It is asking a good deal to demand an exhaustive measurement of divine plans by such an instrument as the mind of a man. As a matter of fact, we do not have to plumb the mystery of external finality for the purposes of this argument.
It is quite sufficient that we establish the fact of internal finality. That we can and do know without doubt. We do know that the eye is constructed for purposes of seeing, the ear for hearing; that a mosquito bites for purposes of nourishment, that the snake's fangs are weapons of defense. and so on. Knowledge such as this is sufficient for the starting point of this fifth proof for the existence of God. Indeed, only one such instance of internal finality would give grounds enough for the proof. This fact of internal finality is quite sufficient to absolve this argument from the charge of anthropomorphism which some philosophers have leveled against it. The argument does not demand that we search the soul of a snake or a mosquito to unearth motives, intentions or plans; it asks merely that we recognize the fact of a constant order of cause to effect.
This internal order is not to be explained by chance. Such an explanation is an insult to common sense: my ear might just as well have turned out to be an organ of smell; on such grounds, is it not surprising that so many animals have ears? The ratio of the chances for a simultaneous chance development of the thirteen conditions immediately necessary for sight has been figured out as 9,999,985 to 15; yet the thing happens every day!
Putting aside the appeal of common sense, which is strangely suspect by the modern philosopher, the explanation of the order of the world by chance is philosophically unsound. Certainly chance exists. It is just chance that a bald-headed man is caught in a thunder-shower without his hat; but obviously if there were no reason for his being out, no reason for the shower, the heavy drops would not now be smacking off the smooth surface of his head. In other words, the very existence of chance presupposes the existence of the essential; chance is no more than the clash of two causes attempting to pursue their own purposive ways; it is an accident which happens to the essential, not which explains or does away with the essential. If everything happens by chance, then all nature is reduced to the level of the accidental; things are not essentially what they are, but only accidentally so, the mirage may melt away before the groping fingers of our mind.
Such an explanation is no explanation at all; it is a contradiction. It is the by now familiar absurdity of explaining the perfect by the imperfect, the greater by the less, order by the lack of order. Or, to put it bluntly, it identifies oppositespotentiality with its realization or potentiality with the lack of all being. And we are faced with the old dilemma of denying the potentialities of the medical student and the perfections of the doctor or of denying the difference between the two; that is, we are back to the impossible attempt to deny facts.
The modern, intent on dodging the infinite, is not at all dashed by the breakdown of an explanation which he will confidently use again as soon as the thunder of reason's guns has died down. For the moment he solves the problem by denying it: the order of the world is explained by the necessity of nature; God is unnecessary because the world is self-sufficient. In plain language, this means that order is discernible in the world, science can continue with its investigation of this order, because things are what they are; this is their nature, they are determined by necessary physical laws to this way of being and of acting, nature itself supplies the necessary determination.
No real question is solved by pretending it does not exist; and this is a real question. The solution offered on the grounds of necessity merely pushes the question back. Whence comes this determination, this necessary inclination to determined action? What is the source of the necessity of nature and of physical laws? Obviously it does not explain itself; chance will not do as an explanation; the only possible solution is a cause above nature, an intelligence that is supreme. Not any intelligence will do. For if that intelligence is not supreme, then it is not intelligence but a nature which has intelligence, that is, a nature determined, inclined, ordered to know; and we have the same problem all over againwhence comes this determination, this inclination, this order? This ultimately explanatory intelligence must be, not have, intelligence; it must not be ordered to knowing but must be its own knowledge.
Such are the proofs for the existence of God. They have their foundations deep in the solid earth while their superstructure sweeps up to the heights of divinity. These proofs are not airy abstractions, they are not vague constructs made to substitute, in the dim light of argumentation, for solid reality. They are inferential proofs, a posteriori proofs, inductions based on the facts of the sensible world and the first principles of reason. The facts upon which they are based are in no sense disputed facts; given the movement of an eyelash, the perfection of a stone or the contingency of a sigh, these proofs hold. Surely, in all common sense, the foundation asked from the senses for these proofs cannot be denied.
On the other hand, the principle of reason involved in these proofs is no less indisputable. It cannot be denied without the denial of all intellectual activities, without the denial of the world of reality; indeed, it cannot be denied without being affirmed. For this principle is simply that a thing is what it is. a thing cannot be and not be at the same time, it cannot be itself and something else; in other words, the principle insists that differences are not identities, that potentialities are not their actualizations, that non-being is not identical with being.
The philosopher who, for reasons best known to himself, decides to challenge these proofs has entered a war of cosmic proportions; fortunately for himself, he cannot win. Such a victory would be his own annihilation. These proofs are not aimed at a cumulative effect; they are totally different from the mass of arguments gathered in support of the hypothesis of evolution, they are not the frail threads woven into the strong cloth of a prosecuting attorney's circumstantial argument. From all of them, or from any one of them, the existence of God is established; from any one of them as a starting point, it can be shown that God is existence itself, the perfect being, "ens a se."
No fault can be found with their procedure, for they adhere rigidly to the evidence in hand and conclude within the proper limits of this evidence. The knowledge they give is not that of probability, not even of very high probability; rather it is knowledge of metaphysical certitude, excluding every other possibility, leaving only the first mover, the first cause, the necessary being and so on as the ultimate answer to the facts of the world of reality.
That these proofs have been shrugged off as meaningless to men, devoid of qualitative content, is something the thinking man will always be unable to understand; and for the very good reason that such an attitude is unintelligible. The following chapters will bring out at length the implications of these notions; but without further elaboration these arguments bow down under the weight of the ripe fruit of profound significance. Thus, for instance, the fact of the existence of a first unmoved mover means that there is no movement, from the crushing force of a tidal wave to the rise and fall of a breast in sleep which does not depend every instant on God; there is no change, from the imperceptible coloring of a leaf in autumn to the upheaval of a social revolution in which God does not play a major part. The existence of a first uncaused cause means that in the swaying struggle of men's lives, the triumphs of their greatest thoughts and works, their masterpieces, their literature, their architecture, the soarings of the poet or the crisp command of the soldier, there is no instant from which God can be excluded. No walls are thick enough, no wastes lonely enough, no army powerful enough, no governmental edict sweeping enough, no hatred bitter enough to exclude the action of the first cause.
The existence of an absolutely necessary being means there is a divine sustaining hand whose withdrawal means annihilation; it means that we cannot contact anything of reality without confronting divinity; that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, that every moment of life, every particle of dust, every stitch of a garment is permeated with divinity or it could not continue to be. That there is an all perfect being means that all the beauty, the love, the goodness that lift the heart of a man out of himself are but shadows of the infinite on the pool of life, vague hints of the ineffable that lies at the beginning and end of life. That a supreme intelligence exists makes it plain that the hairs of our head are indeed numbered; that there is no step, no breath, no success or failure that is without its meaning, without its place in a divine plan, a supreme order, that necessarily goes beyond the human mind's power of assimilation.
These proofs may be attacked as wild abstractions of reason without solid foundation or as cold reasonings that have no meaning, no interest to men. Both accusations are completely false: these are scientific proofs based on the world of reality; they are of an inexhaustible significance and interest to men. If the truth were honestly faced, it would be evident that the real grounds for the modern unease in their presence is the fact that they lead the mind of man to the ultimate mystery. Every beginning is mysterious because every beginning has a drop of the exotic perfume of divinity on its garments. Every beginning is a bridge spanning the chasm between what can be and what is, by its very existence proclaiming the perfection and the mystery of its builder, the ultimate Beginning who laid the foundations upon which every such bridge must be built. The most prosaic beginning intrigues our mind. for the humblest beginning poses a question that only divinity answers and only divinity can fully understand that answer. By a beginning something has come into being that did not exist before; it is a sleight of hand trick, a bit of magic that cannot be true, a mouse giving birth to a mountain unless we come to the Beginning that never began and always is, to the limitlessness that explains the limited, to the utterly independent which is the sole support of the dependent. When we have arrived at that ultimate answer, we are face to face with the incomprehensible precisely because we are in the presence of the limitless.
To the man who confusedly identifies human excellence with absolute supremacy, this sort of thing is intolerable; what overflows the measure of the human mind simply cannot exist, for this would be a refutation of the excellence of man. Some other solution must be had, something not mysterious, something that can be weighed, measured and put in its place by the human god of the universe. It may be this man will try to satisfy his mind, and his heart, by the absurdities of order explained by chance, by the blindness of necessity that has no source, or the deceit of substituting a process for an explanation. But such things can satisfy the mind of a man only by destroying it; they do not solve the problem of a beginning, they dodge it, deny it, destroy it, whereas the mind of man can be satisfied only with an answer. If we are to have that answer, we must face the fact of mystery, for mystery can be eliminated only at the cost of eliminating the beginning and so eliminating all that follows from that beginning. Perhaps, some day, the modern man will learn that mystery is not the prison of the mind of man, it is his home.
APOLOGETICS AND CATHOLIC DOCTRINE
The Most Rev. M. Sheehan, D.D.
SECTION I. NATURAL APOLOGETICS
Chapter I. The Existence And The Nature Of God As Shown By Pure Reason
1. The Existence Of God
From truths naturally known, we prove the existence of a Living, Personal God, i.e., of a Being endowed with intelligence and free-will, the First or Originating Cause of all things distinct from Himself.1
Brief Treatment Of The Proofs
I. Proof From Order And Law In Nature
Proof From Order In Nature
(Usually called the proof from Design)
In the works of nature, as well as in the works of man, order or orderly arrangement is due to the activity of an intelligent designer.
1. Suppose you pay a visit to a bicycle factory. In one of the workshops you see a number of parts, sorted into different collectionsa pile of steel tubing, a sheaf of spokes, wheel-rims, hubs, handlebars, pedals, boxes of nuts and screws and so forth. You return some hours later, let us say, and find that the entire assemblage of units has been transformed into a dozen new bicycles, each perfect in every detail: part has been fitted into part with deft adjustment, yielding a result which is a model of ordered arrangement. Could you possibly imagine such an achievement to have been the product of mere chance? No, you would recognize at once that it was the work of an intelligent mechanic.
Now turn from the bicycles to the human hand that helped to make them, and you will find a far more wonderful instance of order and ingenuity. Every movement of the human hand causes an interplay of finely wrought bones, a contraction or relaxation of pliant muscles, a straining or slackening of fibrous sinews. Its framework is composed of no less than nineteen bones, while eight more of various shapes ensure strength and flexibility in the wrist. Surely blind chance can have had no part in the formation of such a highly-complicated and intricate system of bones and muscles, of sinews and arteries, wherein the several units are working harmoniously for the production of each and every movement of the whole. And, if we exclude chance, the question immediately arises, whence has it come? Obviously not from man, for it has grown and developed with himself. Who then is the author of that wonderful piece of mechanism? Who is it that has caused it to grow to its present shape, to develop so many different tissues to attain to such efficiency? The answer springs to your lips. The Maker of the human hand and of the countless other marvels with which our world is filled is none other than the great Master-Worker, Almighty God.
2. The photographic camera consists of a case in which there is a circular opening for the admission of light, the light passes through the lens, and forms a picture on the sensitive plate. Parallel with this is the instance of the human eye, the eye-ball corresponding to the case of the camera, the pupil corresponding to the circular opening, the crystalline lens to the camera-lens, and the retina to the sensitive plate. In both examples, it will be observed, several distinct things are found united or fitted together to produce a single result, viz., a clear picture on the sensitive plate and on the retina. Could those distinct things have come together by chance? No, it is perfectly plain that such a combination could have been effected only by the intelligent operator. The camera was made by man: the human eye was made by a worker no less real, though invisible.2
How did the maker of the camera do his work? He collected the materials he required; he shaped, filed, and polished them with great care, and finally fitted them together. Though you may admire his skill, you are convinced that you yourself with proper training could imitate it. But what of the maker of the human eye? How did he do his work? In some most mysterious way which we are quite unable to understand, and which we recognize as far beyond the possibility of imitation, he caused a minute portion of flesh to multiply itself a million times over, and, in so doing, gradually to build up, shape, and perfect every part of the wonderful organ. He who could get a particle of matter to behave in that way is a worker whose intelligence and power it is impossible for our minds to measure. He is the Master of Nature: we call Him God.
I Proof From The Laws Of Nature
All nature is obedient to law. Astronomy, physics, and chemistry show that inanimate matter, from the stars of heaven to the smallest speck of dust, is, in all its movements and changes, subject, to fixed laws. The same holds for living thingsplants, animals, and men: each species grows, develops, and acts in the same way. The entire universe is bound together into one vastly complicated whole, and is like a great, machine the parts of which are admirably fitted together. The orderly movement of the heavens, the marvelous structure of living things and their organs, such as the organs of sight and hearing, the wonderful instinct of the lower animals. as instanced in the work of insects and the nest-building of birds, the free activity of man, his great achievements in science, literature, and artall these marvels are the gifts of nature and in conformity with its laws.
It is unthinkable that laws, producing effects so vast, and yet so orderly in their entirety and in their smallest detail, could have sprung from chance, or from any unintelligent cause we choose to name. They must have been imposed by a wise Lawgiver who so framed them and so directed them in their working as to achieve the ends he desired. That Lawgiver must he a being of vast intelligence. He must possess free-will for he has given that faculty to man. He must possess power beyond our capacity to measure, a power to which our minds can affix no limit.
The great Newton who discovered the laws of the motions of the heavenly bodies wrote as follows: "This most beautiful system of sun, planets and comets could nowise come into existence without the design and ownership of a Being at once intelligent and powerful.... This Being governs all things, not as if He were the soul of the world, but as the Lord of everything.... We admire Him for His perfections, we venerate Him and we worship Him for His Lordship."3
II Proof From Motion
Everyday experience shows us that things move. Nothing in the visible world can move entirely of itself, i.e., without help. No moving thing contains in itself the complete explanation of its movement Consider the particular case of inanimate bodies. They move only as they are moved. They do not move themselves in any way. They get all their motion from without.
Let us apply these observations to the earth and to the heavenly bodies. That some of these bodies are in motion is manifest; the movement of the earth on its axis is a proved fact; its motion round the sun is likewise certain.
Ask yourself now how did the earth get its motion? Many physicists say that it got its motion from the sun, which, while spinning round, flung it off as a fragment. But whence did the sun get its motion? Some say that the sun got its motion from a larger body of which it once formed a part, while others assert that the sun with its motion is the result of a collision between two stars. But how did the motion of the larger body or the stars originate? Science gives no answer, and even though it did, the answer would leave us exactly where we were: we should still be as far as ever from a final and satisfactory explanation of the motion of the earth. The only real reply, which excludes all further inquiry, is that the motion is due immediately or ultimately to some unmoved source of motion, to the first mover.
There must exist, therefore, a being distinct from the world who gave it motion. That being is either the first mover or a being moved by some other. If that mover is moved by another, whence did that other derive his motion? The question as to the source of motion can be answered satisfactorily only when, at last, we reach a first mover who is not moved by any other.
That first mover we call God.
III Proof from Causality
A thing must exist before it can act: nothing therefore can make itself. If we see anything new come into existence, we are sure it must have been brought into existence by something else. That which is brought into existence is called an effect; and that which brings it into existence is called a cause.
If we find that the cause of any particular effect is itself an effect, our mind is not content: we feel that we have not yet arrived at a satisfactory explanation of the first effect. Take, for example, the electric light that suddenly springs up and floods your room at night-time. It is an effect. But what is its cause? The current. The current however is an effect of the moving dynamo. Now, if the moving dynamo is the last cause that we can name, we are still without a full and satisfactory explanation of the electric light. Why? Because the dynamo itself is an effect. Therefore, at the end of our series of questions we find ourselves in the presence of an effect that needs explanation quite as much as the effect from which we started.
Let us repeat in general or abstract form what we have been saying in the last paragraph:
In the world around us, the existence of any particular thing, which we will call A, is accounted for by something else, which we will call B. A is the effect; B is its cause. But suppose B itself to be the effect of C; C the effect of D; D the effect of E, and so on through a long series. If the last cause which we can set downlet us call it Zhas itself been produced by something else, then we are still without a true and satisfactory explanation of A. The complete and final explanation will be found only when we reach a cause which is not an effect a cause which has not derived its existence from something else. This cause which we designate the First Cause, accounts at once for the entire series of causes which we have been considering and of any other series which. we choose to investigate. The First Cause therefore of all things in nature must necessarily be uncaused (if it were caused it would not be the first cause.) It was not brought into existence; thus, it must have existence of itself, it must be self-existent. he first cause, the self-existent source of all things, we call God.
IV Proof from Dependence
Everything in the visible world is subject to change and death. Plants, animals, and men come into being, and after a. short time perish, while inanimate matter suffers endless changes. No particular thing in the universe has any grip on existence; its existence is an unfastened cloak that may slip from it at any instant: existence is no part of its nature. Everything in the world, therefore, is dependent, i.e., it does not exist of itself, but depends on something else for its existence.
Since dependent beings do, as a fact, exist, and go on existing, and since they do not exist of themselves, they must be held in existence by an independent or necessary being, i.e., by a being who is self-existent, a being to whose nature existence belongs.
Can the self-existent being be like matter, or electricity, or any other lifeless thing we care to name? No; to support in existence all things in the world, including living plants sentient animals, and rational men, the self-existent being must be a Living Power. He must be the Supreme Being who holds within Himself the source of His own existence.
We call Him God.
Note.Grasp the significance of the truth that we are absolutely dependent on God for our existence. It is the foundation of all religion; it brings sharply before our mind the nothingness of man and the greatness and goodness of God. From it, springs the chief of all our duties, the duty of loving Him with our whole heart and soul as the Giver and ever-active Sustainer of our very life and being, and of acknowledging His supreme dominion over us and our total dependence on Him.
Fuller Treatment Of The Proofs Of God's Existence
First Principles.Before giving our fuller treatment of the above proofs, we shall state the first principles on which they are based. First principles are the self-evident truths that serve as the basis of a science. Thus, in Euclid, the axioms are the first principles from which all the proposition A may ultimately be deduced. In our proofs, the First Principles are chiefly two, viz.:
(1) That our reason and the evidence of our senses are trustworthy.
(2) That anything which begins to exist must have been brought into existence by something distinct from itself (Principle of Causality).
We need not, and in fact we cannot, prove First Principles. They shine by their own light. Those who deny their validity put themselves beyond the pale of discussion.
I Proof From Order And Law In Nature
Proof from Order in Nature 4
Order Explained by Examples.The Photographic Camera.The photographic camera is a familiar object nowadays. It consists of a small case into which are fitted a sensitive plate and at least one lens. The plate is a little sheet of glass on which is spread a chemical preparation: it is called "sensitive" or "sensitized," because it retains any picture made on it by light-rays. The lens is of glass or other transparent substance, and has the power of casting on a screen the image of any object placed in front of it. The camera is completely closed but for a small opening in one of the sides. Through this opening, the lightrays enter: they pass through the lens, and fall on the sensitive plate where they make the picture.
Without going into all details, we may note the following as the essentials of a satisfactory camera:
(1) A case, blackened within.
(2) A circular opening which can be altered in size so as to admit only the exact amount of light required.
(3) A lens of a special curved shape.
(4) A sensitive plate.
(6) An arrangement by which the lens can be adjusted to a particular distance from the sensitive plate, so as to secure the proper focus, and save the picture from being blurred.
All these things were shaped and brought together for the purpose of producing a good picture. We have here an example of order or design, i.e., a combination or arrangement of different things in order to produce a single effect.
The Human Eye.The human eye is similar in structure to the camera. Note the following points of resemblance:
(1) The eye-ball corresponds to the case.
(2) The pupil corresponds to the circular opening: it is of adjustable size, and can be altered according to the amount of light required.
(3) The crystalline lens, corresponding to the lens of the camera.
(4) The retina, corresponding to the sensitive plate.
(6) An arrangement for focusing: in the camera, this is done by altering the distance between lens and plate; in the eye by altering the curvature of the crystalline lens.
Here again we have an example of order, because different things are combined to produce a single effect. Each contributes in its own measure towards the same end, viz., the formation of a clear picture on the retina.
Order Demands Intelligence.How did the camera come to be made? You have your choice of just two answers, viz., that it was made by chance or by intelligence. Now, you know that it could not have been made by chance: such an explanation is so foolish that you would regard it as a jest. You need no help whatever to convince you that the camera was put together by an intelligent workman.
How did the human eye come to be made? By chance? No: that is an absurd reply. The human eye was made by some intelligent being.
The Maker of the Human Eye Possesses Power and Intelligence without Limit.Make the following supposition: Suppose that all the parts of a camera lay scattered about the table, and suppose you saw them rise up and move towards one another and fit themselves togetherwould you say that this happened by chance? No; you would say that it was brought about by some intelligent, though invisible, worker, and you would add that he must indeed possess very wonderful powers.
Now take a step further. Suppose that the case, the lens, and the sensitive plate were all ground to the finest powder and mixed thoroughly together; suppose that the minute fragments of each part sought one another out, and fastened themselves together again; and suppose that each part thus completed took up its proper place so as to give us a perfect camerawould you say that this was due to chance? No, but you would protest that here there was need of a worker, still more intelligent, still more powerful.
But we are not done with our suppositions. There is one more which we must make. Suppose you saw just a single tiny speck of dust on the table before you; suppose that, having grown to twice its size, it broke up into two particles, and that each of these two particles, having doubled its size, broke up into two others; suppose that this process of growth and division went on, and that, during its progress, the particles managed to build up the case, lens and plate; suppose, in other words, that you saw one and the same minute fragment of matter produce such widely different things as the case with its blackened sides, the transparent lens with its mathematically accurate curvature, the sensitive plate with its chemical dressing, the aperture with its light-control, and last of all, the mechanism for focusing. What would you say to such a supposition? You would be tempted at once to stamp it as utterly improbable. You would protest, and with good reason, that only an all-powerful being could get a single speck of dust to behave as we have described, to make it multiply itself, and, while so doing, form unerringly, and piece together, an ingenious mechanism.
But is there really any improbability in the occurrence of which we have just spoken? No; the very eyes with which you have been reading this page are witnesses against you. Each of them began as a single particle of matter: the hidden worker acted upon it, made it multiply itself millions of times and made it develop such utterly distinct things as the eye-ball, the retina, the crystalline lens with its controlling muscles, the contractile pupil, along with other parts equally marvelous which it is unnecessary to mention. That hidden worker is a being whose power and intelligence our minds cannot measure.
The Maker of the Human Eye is God.He who has made the human eye is a spirit; He is a spirit because He is an active intelligent and invisible being. He is one to whom nothing is hard or impossible. We call Him God.
Further Evidence For This Conclusion
God's Wisdom and Power.1. The human eye, as we have explained grows from a single particle of matter; but the entire body with its flesh, blood, bone, muscle, its various limbs and organs, grows in precisely the same way. It begins as a single living cell which multiplies itself, and gradually forms every part. That living cell small as it is, is far more wonderful than any machine that man has ever made. You can show how a watch does its work; you can show how the movement of the spring passes from one part to another, until finally it is communicated to the hands; but you cannot show how the living cell does its work: it is wrapt round with mysterywhy? Because the mind that made it is too deep for us to fathom. But the mystery lies not only in the manner in which the cell works but in the results which it produces. As fruit, flowers, foliage, bark, stem and roots come from a single seed, so the wonderful powers of man, his sight, his hearing, his other senses come from the living cell. The more intricate and ingenious a machine is, the greater testimony it is to the cleverness of its maker: but there is no machine in the world that can be compared with the living cell which builds up a man capable himself of making machines and of attaining to eminence in art and science.
The power displayed in the development of the living cell is on a par with the wisdom. It is a power exerted, not through hands and muscles, but by a mere act of the will. God commands the development to take place, and nature obeys Him.5
2. We have proved God's existence from a few special in stances of order, but we could have argued with equal success from anything whatever in the visible world: the very stones you tread under foot are made up of molecules each one of which, when studied scientifically, is found to possess a structure that could have been given to it only by a wise architect: it is as clearly the work of intelligence as is the house in which you live.
We read that in olden times a certain man was accused of denying the existence of God. Stooping down, he picked up a straw from the ground: "If I had no other evidence before me but this straw," he said, "I should be compelled to believe that there is a God." He meant that wisdom alone could have devised the special tubular shape in virtue of which a very small quantity of matter supports an ear of corn, and allows it to toss and away freely with the breeze.
Proof from Law in Nature 6
All Nature is Obedient to Law.7That the universe is obedient to law is a truth which forms the very basis of all physical science:
(1) Inanimate matter is subject to law.(a) In Astronomy, the laws of Kepler and Newton have exhibited the heavens as forming so exact a mechanical system that seemingly irregular occurrences, such as eclipses and the return of comets, can be predicted with certainty. (b) In Physics, the laws of sound, heat, light, and electricity, work so perfectly that results can be calculated in advance with mathematical accuracy. (c) In Chemistry, substances are found to have definite attractions and affinities and to combine according to fixed laws. In all other branches and sub-divisions of physical science the same regularity is observed. Everywhere, like agents in like circumstances produce the same effects.
(2) Animate matter is subject to law.(a) All living things are subject to fixed laws of nutrition, growth, and reproduction. Plants, animals, and men develop from a single living cell. In the higher forms of life, in man, for instance, that cell multiplies itself many times, gradually building up a great complexity of organs, such as the eye, the ear, the heart and lungs. (b) Every living thing possesses the capacity to repair its worn parts. (c) Among the lower animals, every individual of the same species is endowed with the same set of useful appetites and tendencies in connection with the quest for food, the defense of life the propagation of its kind, and the care of its offspring. (d) The same holds for man, who, in addition, possesses inclinations in keeping with his rational nature. Impelled by the desire for truth and the love of beauty, his mind builds up many wonderful sciences, and produces all the marvels of literature and art. In its movements it is subject to certain laws, the laws of thought just as the seed, developing into stem, leaf, and flower, is subject to the laws of growth.
(3) Animate matter is subject to, and served by, the laws of inanimate matter.(a) All living things are subject to the laws of inanimate matter. Nutrition, growth, and many other processes take place in accordance with the laws of chemistry. The laws of gravitation and energy are as valid for the living as for the non-living. The tree, for instance, which stores up the energy of the sun's rays, returns it later on when its withered branches burn on the hearth. (b) Animate matter is served by the laws of inanimate matter. Examples: Gravitation has so placed the earth in relation to the sun that it receives the moderate quantity of light and heat necessary for the support of organic life.... The air contains in every 100 parts nearly 79 of nitrogen and 21 of oxygen gas, together with .04 of carbonic acid, a minute proportion of ammonia and other constituents, and a variable quantity of watery vapor. In pure nitrogen, man would suffocate; in pure oxygen, big body would burn out rapidly like a piece of tinder; without carbonic acid plant life would be impossible.... The plant exhales oxygen and inhales carbonic acid; the animal exhales carbonic acid, and inhales oxygen: thus, each ministers to the life of the other.... The water, drawn by evaporation from the sea, drifts in clouds, and descends in rain on the mountains, thus feeding the wells, the streams and rivers, so necessary for living things.... Bodies contract with a fall of temperature, and yet water expands when its temperature falls below 4 Centigrade. Hence, ice is lighter than water, and forms a surface-covering which, being of low conductivity, prevents the rapid congealing of the entire body of water and the destruction of living things beneath.
(4) The whole universe, we may say in conclusion, is guided by law. Everywhere there is order. Everywhere there is admirable arrangement. Everywhere there are fixed modes of action.
The Laws of Nature could not have been produced by chance or by a cause acting blindly, which is but another name for chance.Is it necessary to refute the absurdity that chance could have generated a law? Law is the exact opposite of chance. Fixity is the characteristic of law; variability, the characteristic of chance: (1) Four rods of equal length, flung aimlessly from the hand, may fall into the exact form of a square. It is barely conceivable that this may happen once or twice; it is utterly inconceivable that it should happen a hundred times in unbroken succession; but what should be thought of the conceivability of its never happening otherwise?8 Yet this last must be realized in order to give us the basis of a law. (2) If the generation by chance of such a simple law be impossible, how can we measure the absurdity of supposing that chance could have produced the vast complexity of laws that rule the universe, the laws whose operation guides the course of planets, and accounts for the growth and reproduction of living things, the instinct and tendencies of animals the work of bees, the nest-building of birds, the activity of the mind of man?
The Laws of Nature have been Imposed by a Lawgiver.(1) The arguments by which we have shown that the laws of nature are not due to chance avail, also, to prove that those laws cannot be due to any unintelligent cause we choose to name. Therefore, they must be due to some great intelligence distinct from matter. They must have been ordained and imposed by a Lawgiver. And, as the statesman frames his legislation for a definite purpose, so, also the Lawgiver of the universe imposed His laws to achieve the ends He desired. The orderly arrangement produced by His laws was intentional. It was in accordance with His preconceived plan or design.
(2)Observe how the necessity for an intelligent author of the Laws of Nature is enforced by considerations such as the following:
(a) Great intelligence and skillful workmanship are required to construct a steam-engine that can feed itself with fuel and water. But indefinitely greater would be the intelligence and power which could make the iron-ore come, of itself, out of the bowels of the earth, smelt and temper itself, form and fit together all the parts of the engine, make the engine lay in its store of water and coal, kindle its furnace, and repair its worn parts. Yet this is an everyday process of nature in the case of living organisms. And, as intelligence is needed to guide the hands of the mechanic who builds the engine, much more is it needed to combine and direct the lifeless forces of nature in producing more marvelous results.
(b) The lower animals in the work which they do, often exhibit instances of wonderful order. They perform with great skill a series of actions for the achievement of a definite purpose. Take the following example: There is a kind of sand-wasp9 which prepares a worm as food for its larvae by cutting as with a surgical lance and paralyzing all the more-nerve centers, so as to deprive the worm of movement but not of life. The sand-wasp then lays its eggs beside the worm and covers all with clay. It has got its surgical skill without instruction or practice. It lives for but one season. It has not been taught by its parents, for it has never seen them. It does not teach its offspring, for it dies before they emerge from the earth. It has not got its skill by heredity. For what does heredity mean in such a case? It means that some ancestor of the insect, having accidentally struck the worm in nine or ten nerve centers, managed somehow or other to transmit to all its descendants a facility for achieving the same success. But it is mere folly to say that this chance act of the ancestor rather than any other chance act should become a fixed habit in all its progeny. And could the original success have been due to chance? Where the number of points that might have been struck was infinitely great, the chance of striking the nerve centers alone was zero. But perhaps the insect gets its skill by reasoning? No: (1) because reasoning does not give dexterity; (2) because it is impossible that each insect of the same tribeand all are equally expertshould discover by independent reasoning exactly the same process; (3) because, when the insect is confronted with the slightest novel difficulty, it acts like a creature without reason and is powerless to solve it. Therefore, the intelligence which the sand-wasp exhibits does not reside in the insect itself but in the mind of God: it was He who planned the work: it is He who moves the insect to perform it.10
(c) Man is as much a product of nature as the bee or the flower. The elaborate works of civilization, the arts and sciences, and all the accumulated knowledge of centuries, are as certainly due to the working of nature's laws or forces, as the honey-cell of the bee or the perfume of the flower. Is it for a moment conceivable that those laws were not directed by intelligence, that man and all his achievements could have sprung from a source, blind and lifeless, and, therefore totally inadequate to account for them?
The Lawgiver is God.(1) As the carpenter is distinct from the table he makes, the architect from the house he designs, as every cause is distinct from its effect, so the Lawgiver of the universe must be distinct from the universe and its laws. (2) A scientist of exceptional talent, aided by perfect apparatus for research, succeeds after many years of study in understanding, more or less imperfectly, the working of one or two of those laws. Must not, then, the Author of them all be a Being of vast intelligence? (3) That Being must possess free-will. Else, how does man by a law of his nature come to possess such a faculty? And why should the laws of nature be precisely as they arewe see no reason why they might not be otherwiseexcept from the act of a Being free to choose as He pleases? The Being who possesses these perfections we call God.
II Proof From Motion
The Existence of Motion in things around us is proved by innumerable instances.
In the Visible World Nothing moves entirely of itself, i.e. without help.11 You can divide all things in the world into two classes, viz., things animate and things inanimate, or, things with life and things without life.
(1) No lifeless thing moves without help. This obvious truth can be illustrated by a thousand examples. The marbles with which a child plays are propelled by his fingers: the stone falling through the air is being pulled down by gravity: the steamer gliding through the water gets its motion from the engineand so on for instances without number. If then you see any quantity of inanimate matter in motionany quantity be it ever so great or ever so smallyou are certain that it must have got help from without.
(2) No animate or living thing moves without help. This, at first sight, is not so clear, yet a little reflection will show that it is true. (a) Living things move themselves but can do so only by receiving help from outside. Both animals and plants require food; it is the source of their energy; without it they would cease to be living things. (b) Life, or the principle of life, is not like the movement of a particle of matter; life is not energy, but a director of energy. The total energy of a plant or animal during the whole course of its existence (including the store of energy which it may possess at death) is exactly equivalent to the energy which it has absorbed from without; and this equality remains, no matter how the energy may have been expended. (c) The principle of life never begins its work, until it is stimulated from outside. One illustration will suffice: take, for instance, the grain of corn in the earth; the living principle in that grain will remain inactive, unless the proper conditions of warmth, moisture, etc., are present.
"But," you will say, "what of our free-will?" Using the word 'motion' in a broader sense to mean more than the movement of something material, cannot we say, and must we not say, that our will moves itself?" Yes, but it never moves itself without help. The will cannot choose between two courses, unless those courses have been laid before it by the intellect. "But what of the intellect? Does it not conceive ideas unaided? "No; it cannot take its first step, until it gets information from one or other of the five senses; and the senses themselves would remain forever passive, unless stimulated or affected by things distinct from them.12
There would be no motion in the world but for help given by someone who is outside the world.Since nothing in the world moves of itself, since everything requires help of some kind for its motion it follows that there must be some Being outside the world who gave it its first motion.
Suppose that there are five children who are willing to obey you strictly: suppose you get each to promise not to speak until spoken to; and suppose you lock all five in a room by themselves: then, no word would over be spoken in that room, unless someone from outside were first to speak to the occupants. It is so with the motion we see in the world; as the silence in the room would never have been broken but for the voice from without, so the motion in the world could never have existed but for the motion given by some Being outside the world.
So far we have been thinking of the world as it is today, with its great number of living as well as lifeless things; but it is the teaching of Science, that at some time in the distant past the earth was a fiery globe revolving then, as now, round the Sun, but with no life on its surface. How did it get this motion? Scientists say it got it from the Sun. The Sun while spinning round flung off several fragments: these fragments are the planets of which the earth is one. But how did the Sun get its spinning or rotating motion? It got it from a larger moving mass of which it once formed partor as some assert, the Sun with its motion was produced by a collision between two stars. But, again, how account for the motion of the larger mass, or of the stars. There is no answer from Science: and, even if there were, it would merely tell us of another moving body or bodies whose motion would equally need explanation. Here then is the problem: the universe was formed from a quantity of moving matter; who gave that matter its motion? Someone who is outside the universe, and is no part of the universe. Someone who is truly called the First Mover.
The First Mover is God.If you suppose that he who gave the world its motion was Himself moved by a second being, the second by a third, and so on indefinitely, you make a supposition which leads nowhere, because it would still remain true that there must be some being who is the fountain-head of all that motion, there would still be a First Mover. The hands of a watch are moved by one of the wheels, that wheel is moved by another and so on. But it is quite absurd to think that we can do without the mainspring by merely increasing the number of wheels indefinitely.13
The First Mover cannot be a lump of inert matter; if he wore, his motion would have been derived from without; he could not have been the First Mover.
He is not like us: he is not united to a body; if he were, his knowledge would depend on external stimulus, and he would not be the First Mover. He must be a Being whose knowledge had no beginning, whose mind was never in darkness.
He Himself is the source of all His activity. He is a Spirit, the Lord and Master of the universe: His name is God.
Note.According to the capacity of the pupils, the teacher might explain that in God the mind knowing is not distinct from the object known that the mind knowing is God himself, and the object known is likewise God himself; and that through His self-knowledge He has a perfect knowledge of His creatures. This identity in God of the mind knowing and the object known enables us to understand how His knowledge never had a beginning.
III Proof From Causality
The only full and satisfactory explanation of the universe is found, as we shall see, in the existence of a First Cause, to whom all things and all changes, all facts and events are directly or indirectly due.
Take anything you please in the world about youlet us call it Aand try to account for its existence. You discover that it has been produced by B; that B has been produced by C; and C by D. Now, if the last cause named by you in this or any other such series be itself an effect, you are still without a true and full explanation of A, and you will not find that explanation until you arrive at a first cause, a cause which is not an effect, a cause which has not derived its existence from anything else, a cause which is uncaused and self-existent.
If it be objected that A may be caused by B, B by C, and C by A, thus moving in a circle, as it were, no answer: (1) If A has been caused by B, and B by C, it follows that A has been caused by C. But if A has been caused by C, then C cannot have been caused by A. (2) If A is caused by B, then B must have existed before A; if B has been caused by C, then C must have existed before B. Therefore C existed before A, and could not have been caused by it.
The series of effects and causes, A. B, C, etc., leads us therefore to a First Cause which is uncaused. Being uncaused, it was never brought into existence by anything else; it always existed; it has existence of itself; it is self-existent. It is idle to inquire why it exists, for it exists of its very nature." The First Cause is thus self-explanatory, accounting not only for itself but for A and B and C, and for each and every member in any other such series which we choose to set forth.
Now, since there is nothing in the visible world about which we cannot ask the question, why it exists, it follows that the independent being who is the explanation and cause of all things in nature must himself be distinct from all and superior to all.
Each individual thing in the visible world, as we have seen, needs an explanation, and finds it, directly or ultimately, in the existence of a first cause. But the universe in its entirety likewise needs an explanation: it is not self-explanatory; it is not, the full explanation of all that takes place within it:The universe is made up of a certain number of constituents; the action of any one of them (X) may be explained by its properties and by the influence exerted on it by all the others, the action of the second (Y) may be explained in a similar way, and so on, yet this leaves still unexplained why the constituent X existed at all, and why it had Y, Z, K, etc., acting upon it, and not a totally different set of influencing companions. Hence the universe considered as a whole, is not self-explanatory: it needs an explanation just as much as the smallest thing in it. It points beyond itself; it points to an uncaused being outside nature, a being that contains its own explanation, and is the final explanation of everything else, the first and sufficient cause of all things.
Since this being is the author of the order of the universe, the author of the intelligence and free-will of man, he himself in some super-eminent way, must possess intelligence and free-will, for the cause must be sufficient to account for the effect.
This First Cause, this Self-existent and Intelligent Being we call God.
Note.(1) The student should observe that a physical cause, that is, a cause whose operation comes under the observation of the senses, can never fully account for its effect. Let us take an example:Suppose we are asked to account for the letters we see in this printed page. The physical causes of those letters are the metal type, the ink, the absorbent nature of the paper, the printer's hands and eyes. But, clearly, these causes do not explain how the page came to be printed. The real cause is not physical. It is the free-will of the printer. Note how the example applies to the motion we observe in the world around us: the physicist explains the motion of the train by the motion in the piston of the engine; the motion in the piston by the expansion of steam; the expansion of steam by the heat from the coal; the energy in the coal, which is nothing more than compressed vegetable matter, by the sun's heat and light; the sun's heat and light, by the motion of the nebula out of which it was evolved. Therefore, as far as a complete explanation is concerned, we find ourselves, at the end of a long series of physical causes, just where we were at the beginning. The motion of the nebula requires explanation just as much as the motion of the train. Thus we are driven once more to find the ultimate explanation of all physical phenomena in the will of some all-powerful Being distinct from the world.15
Note.(2) The Existence of a First Cause is demanded by the Law of the Dissipation of Energy.Men of science agree that the two following principles belong to the fundamental laws of physics.16
(a) The amount of energy in the universe is constant."
(b) Energy existing as uniformly diffused heat is not available for useful work.
Every student of physical science knows that a portion of the energy employed in doing work appears as heat, which tends to diffuse itself uniformly. The amount of energy thus converted into diffused heat is constantly increasing, and as no useful work can be extracted from it, it is justly described as the growing waste-heap of the universe. Hence, even if the sum of energy in the universe be constant, the amount available for useful work is continually diminishing. The universe, therefore, will finally arrive at a state of rest, in which all work, and hence, all life such as we know it, will be impossible.
But the useful energy of the universe, which is thus constantly diminishing, was evidently finite at all times, and hence can only have been diminishing for a finite time. Wherefore it follows that the useful energy of the universe. had a beginning. With Lord Kelvin, we may compare the universe to a lighted candle: "Regarding the universe," he says, "as a candle that has been lit, we become absolutely certain that it has not been burning from eternity, and that a time must come when it will cease to burn." Or, we may compare it to a clock which is going. The movement of a clock is due to a spring which is slowly uncoiling. There is no mechanism within the clock to rewind the spring. At some point in the future it will stop. At some point in the past it was wound up by the hand of a man, or by some agency distinct from itself. It is so with the universe. As surely as the springs of its energy approach at every instant the final stage of complete relaxation, so surely were they, at some instant in the past, wound up by some extrinsic agency, by the hand
IV Proof From Dependence
(Usually called the Proof from Contingence)18
The Meaning of "Dependence" and "Necessity."Contrast these two statements:
"The sky is clear," "The whole is greater than the part."
The former is a dependent truth: the latter is an independent or necessary truth.
The former may be true at this moment, but need not be true; its truth depends on the fulfillment of a condition, viz., that there be no clouds or mist: it is therefore a dependent truth. The latter is true at this moment and must ever be true; its truth does not depend on the fulfillment of any condition: it is an independent or necessary truth.
(1) If a statement which is now true was not always true, we know at once that it is a dependent truth; the very fact that it is a temporary truth shows us that it is not a necessary truth. May we infer from this that every statement that is true for all time must be a necessary truth? No. We can suppose that the statement, "The sky is clear," was always true and always will be true; we can suppose it to be eternally true; but even so, our supposition will not make it an independent truth; it will remain a dependent truth, eternally dependent on other truths.
A dependent statement such as, "The sky is clear," no matter how long it may continue to be true, can lose its truth at any instant: our mind admits the possibility without hesitation; but an independent statement, such as, "The whole is greater than its part," can never cease to be true; our mind rejects the possibility as absurd and inconceivable. A dependent statement is always reversible; it is subject to death, as it were; it is a perishable truth; while an independent statement is a truth which is irreversible, deathless, imperishable and necessary.
(2) The nature of anything is shown to us in its definition; the definition tells us what precisely the thing is, or how it is constituted. We define "the whole" as "the sum of two or more parts." The very nature of "the whole," therefore, compels us to assert that "the whole is greater than its part." The assertion is really contained in the meaning of "the whole."
Now look at the other statement, "the sky is clear." We may define the sky as "the visible region above the earth." It is obvious that the nature of what we call "the sky" does not compel us to assert that "the sky is clear." Such an assertion would not follow from our definition of "the sky."
It is the nature of "the whole" to be greater than its part.19 It is not the nature of "the sky" to be clear. The truth that "the whole is greater than its part" is true of itself; it does not lean for help on any other truth. The truth that "the sky is clear" is not true of itself; it needs outside help to make it true.
(3) An independent statement explains itself: it shines by its own light; it does not force us to look elsewhere for the reason why it is true. A dependent statement is the opposite of all this: it does not account for itself; it shines by a borrowed light; it leaves us dissatisfied, and sends us farther afield until we find a self-explanatory truth.
Now, as a truth may be either dependent or independent, so too an existing thing may be either dependent or independent. An existing thing is dependent:
(1) if it exists for but a time; or
(2) if existence does not belong to its nature; or
(3) if it compels us to look outside it for the reason of its existence.
If, therefore, any one of these three conditions has been verified, the thing derives its existence from without.
Everything in the World is Dependent.(1) Everything in this world about us is subject to change and death. Plants, animals and men come into existence and pass away. Inanimate matter suffers endless variations; new substances are being constantly built up and broken down.20 All these things are obviously dependent, because their existence is merely temporary; but even though their existence were everlasting, it would still be, as we shall see, a dependent existence.
If we were asked to give the list of things that make up the nature of man or, in other words, if we were asked to set down all those things which constitute a man, we should not mention "existence" as one of them. The description of a man remains precisely the same whether he exists or not, or whether he exists everlastingly or not, and this is true of any particular thing in the world we choose to name. Existence, therefore, does not belong to the nature of man, nor to the nature of anything else in the world." Hence we say that everything in the visible world is dependent or contingent, i.e., that it need not exist. Not merely is there no necessity for its coming into existence, but there is no necessity for its continuing in existence.21 Nothing in the world exists necessarily. Nothing in the world has any grip on existence.
(2) If we examine the world at any stage of its history, we shall arrive at the same conclusion. Go back, if you will, to the remote age when, according to scientists, nothing existed but the fiery nebula out of which all things around us today are supposed to have been evolved. Here again you find a merely dependent thing: (a) it existed but for a time; (b) it was composed of a definite number of particles linked together in definite ways, and the fact that it possessed such a particular arrangement and no other shows its dependence on something outside itself; it needs explanation quite as much as the blast-furnace in one of our factories.Existence does not belong to its nature.
(3) With scientists we may conceive the possibility that, amid all the transformations through which the world has passed, fundamental particles of some simple kind may have persisted fixed and unchanged, serving as the material out of which all else has been made.23 But these particles, as scientists themselves admit, would be dependent things; (a) they would possess only a definite, limited power, a fact which would send our mind in quest of further explanation; (b) the power exerted by them would be described by scientiststo put their view in the simplest form-as a certain amount of activity;24 but this activity would need explaining quite as much as the activity of our muscles.25
Dependent Things are held in Existence by an Independent Being.Since the visible world with all that it contains is dependent, it must be held in existence by some being distinct from it. If this being were dependent on a second and higher being, the second on a third, the third on a fourth, and so on endlessly, we should thus have an infinite series; but the entire series would be dependent quite as much as any member of it, and would not account for its continued existence. Therefore, no explanation of the continued existence of ourselves and all else in the world can be found, unless we admit the existence of an independent or necessary being, existing of itself, existing of its very nature.
Physical scientists are not in disagreement with us. Max Planck, one of the most eminent of them, expresses a common view in the following quotation (his word "absolute" is equivalent to "independent"; his words "accidental," "contingent" and "relative" have the same meaning as "dependent"):
"From the fact that in studying the happenings of nature we strive to eliminate the contingent and accidental, and to come finally to what is essential and necessary, it is clear that we always look for the basic thing behind the dependent thing, for what is absolute behind what is relative.... After all I have said, and in view of the experiences through which scientific progress has passed, we must admit that in no case can we rest assured that what is absolute26 in science today will remain absolute for all time. Not only that, but we must admit as certain that the absolute can never finally be grasped by the researcher.27 The absolute represents an ideal goal which is always ahead of us and which we can never reach."28
The search of the physical scientist for the independent, self-existent being is doomed to failure, because his sphere of inquiry is restricted to the visible world, where he will never find anything but dependent things or activities like those with which we are familiar; his last word will take us no farther than the theory of the Indian sages who said that the earth is supported by an elephant, the elephant by a tortoise, and the tortoise by29 he will never reach the end of his inquiry, because he will never see the Absolute, i.e., God, in the microscope.
The Independent or Necessary Being is God.The Independent or Necessary Being, the giver of dependent existence and the upholder of every dependently existing thing, from intelligent man down to the least material thing, must be a great living Power: we call Him God. Existence must belong to Him as truth belongs to the statement that "the whole is greater than its part." He must be self-existent. He must be one who cannot, without an absurdity, be divested of His existence. He must therefore, be identified with existence itself, a concept which excludes every demand for further explanation and sets our mind at rest.
Note.(1) For the purpose of this argument, it would have been sufficient to show that there is at least one contingent being in the world. From that one contingent being we could have proved the existence of a Self-existent Being.
Note.(2) To the beginner in these studies, the proofs from Motion, Causality and Dependence may seem to be much alike. It is therefore well to point out that each leads to a distinct notion of the Supreme Being:
The proof from Motion shows that He is not moved by any other being.
The proof from Causality shows that He is not produced by any other being.
The proof from Dependence shows that He exists necessarily; that He exists without the help of any other being.
In addition to the proofs for the existence of God set forth above, there are many others. Among them may be mentioned, in particular, the Aesthetic Argument, based on the perception of beauty in the universe, the Ethical Argument, based on the voice of conscience, and the Moral Argument or the Argument from the universal belief of mankind.
VThe Nature Of God As Known From Reason
By the light of pure reason we may arrive at some knowledge of the Nature of God from the fact that He is the First Cause, eternal, self-existent.
We can show that, since by the mere act of His will, He can call things out of nothingness into actual existence, and annihilate them at His pleasure, He must be the Master of existence, subject to no deficiency and containing within Himself in some higher way every created perfection that can possibly exist; in other words, we can show that He must be infinitely perfectinfinitely perfect in Power and Knowledge and Goodness and in the splendor of Beauty. But, to those who have been taught by Bethlehem and Calvary to know Him and love Him with a warm, personal love, our philosophic arguments must appear to be as chill and formal as the propositions of geometry. The Incarnation of the Son of God has given sight to us men who were groping in darkness; He who dwelt among us has thrown a light on the Divine Nature which does not shine from the ablest treatise on philosophy.
1. Attention is directed to footnote 47, where it is shown that the resurrection of Christ enables us to dispense with the philosophical proof for the existence of God given in this chapter.
2. Order is unity or uniformity amid variety. Order is present when several different things combine to produce a single effect or result. Examples: (1) A watch consists of the case, the dial, the hands, a multiplicity of wheels and other arrangements: each part contributes towards the production of a single result, viz., the convenient indication of the hour. (2) the human body consists of a great number of members and organs, yet all help, each in its own way, towards the well-being of the whole.
Order is the result of design. Design may, therefore, be defined as the planning of order.
3. Principa III, Sch. Gen.
4. Text of St. Thomas Aquinas.We observe that some things which are without understanding such as natural bodies, operate for an end (as appears from the fact that always or more frequently they operate in the same way to arrive at what is best): whence it is clear that they attain this end not by chance but by intention. Now, these things which do not possess understanding operate for a purpose only in so far as they are directed by a being endowed with intelligence: just as an arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore. there is an intelligent Being, by whom all the things of nature are directed to their end. And this Being we call God." St. Thomas, Summa Til. I, q. 2, a. 2.
5. A remarkable instance of design appears in the set of organs for the reception, mastication, and digestion of our food. The mouth with its flexible muscles by which it opens and closes, receives the food; the tongue and palate register its agreeable or disagreeable taste; the teeth cut and crush it; the salivary glands pour out their juices to prepare it for digestion; the muscles of the throat draw down the masticated food through the alimentary canal to the stomach where the digestive juices convert it into such a form that it can bring nutrition to every part of the body. This admirable system of organs, all conducing to the achievement of a single purpose, viz., the preservation and strengthening of life, bears the unmistakable impress of design.
6. In the proof from Order, we examined separate things, such as the human eye and the human hand we showed that each is the outcome of design; that each, therefore points to a Designer.
In the proof from Law, we assume with modern adversaries that all instances of orderly arrangement in the world are due to the operation of Nature's Laws. We prove against them that these Laws themselves give us no final explanation, but demand the existence of an Intelligent Lawgiver.
7. A law of nature, or physical law, may be merely a formal statement of what regularly occurs in nature, or it may denote the cause of such regularity. We use the expression in the latter sense: let us then define a law of nature as "the cause of a certain regularity observed in nature." It must not be inferred, however, that we claim any exact knowledge of the cause of each set of regularly occurring phenomena. That the cause exists we are certain, but as to its precise nature and mode of operation we need not profess to know anything.
8. We abstract for the moment from the rare interpositions to which according to the doctrine of miracles, the laws of nature are subject
9. The ammophila hirsuta.
10. Fabre, the chief authority on entomology, from whose work, "Souvenirs Entomologiques" (Paris: Delegrave) the above example is taken, says that the behavior of the larvae is still more astounding. While eating into the live worm, they take care to avoid the vital parts; were they to injure even one of these, the worm would die and they would perish for want of fresh food. This, says Fabre, is "the miracle of miracles."
Fabre was a Catholic and for a long time an indifferent one. Many years before his death he was touched by God's grace, in a spirit of great devotion and penance, he returned to the practice of his religion and continued faithful to the end. But even during his period of indifferentism, he did not deny God's existence. He never had anything, but scorn for the feeble and foolish attempts of other scientists to evade the truth that instinct points straight to God.
11. Our argument does not require us to specify the nature of the help. The help may be a true cause or a stimulus, or it may consist in the removal of an obstacle.
12. You may urge your objection still further and say: "An angel is not in any way dependent on bodily senses. The intellect of an angel therefore, can move itself, that is, it can obtain ideas without external help." No; the intellect of all angel could not perform its first act, unless it were affected in some way by an object distinct from it. Some one has to make the link between the mind of the angel and the first truth it knows.
13. But," you may say, "the series of wheels could be infinite." Very well, let us suppose so. But let us suppose also that the wheels have the gift of speech and can answer a question. Ask any one of them, "Are you the cause of the motion I see in you? "It will answer, "No," and all the members of the infinite series will give the same reply. We get an infinite number of "Noes" to an infinite number of questions. We must therefore look outside the infinite series for the source of that motion which we see flowing from member to member.
14. Just as it is idle to inquire why a circle is round, for it is round of its very nature.
15. We may bring out the point of this argument by means of a humorous illustration used for a somewhat different purpose by W. G. Ward in his work, "The Philosophy of Theism," vol II, p. 173. He supposes a "philosophical" mouse to be enclosed in a pianoforte. The mouse discovers that every sound of the instrument is produced by a vibration of the strings, and the vibration of the strings by taps of the hammers. "Thus far I have already prosecuted my researches," says the mouse. And he goes on with all the blithe optimism of the Atheist: "So much is evident even now, viz., that the sounds proceed not . . . from any external agency, but from the uniform operation of fixed laws. These laws may be explored by intelligent mice, and to their exploration I shall devote my life." And so, the mouse arguing himself out of the old belief of his kind, becomes convinced that the piano-player has no existence.
16. These laws are generalizations from a number of observed facts.
17. Energy is the power of doing work. Any cause which changes or tends to change a body's state of rest or motion is termed a force. A force does work when it overcomes a resistance. Examples: The force exerted by a horse, in drawing a wagon, does work. The force exerted by a man in raising a weight, and the pressure of the steam in moving the piston of an engine, also do work. Cf. Chapter IV Objections B, 2.
18. This argument is a direct deduction from established physical laws: See Preston's "Heat," pp. 296-298. Addressed to Materialists, it is an "argumentum ad hominem," i.e., an argument based on their own admissions. They, in common with all physicists, regard the laws of energy as the very foundation of physical science. It has been suggested that there may be a means in nature for the sudden restoration of useful energy (cataclysmic theory). But this is merely a gratuitous assumption unsupported even by a scrap of scientific evidence.
19. Cf. footnote 36 of this chapter.
20. Consider, e.g.. our planet alone: (1) The distribution of land and water is insensibly, but constantly changing; (2) the earth's rotatory motion is getting slower and slower, because the tide, the great bank of water piled up by the attraction of the moon, acts as a brake on it; (3) the motion of the earth round the sun is being retarded, because of friction with clouds of meteoric dust: the earth is, therefore, ever being drawn nearer to the sun. Enormous changes will result, after the lapse of ages, as a consequence of (2) and (3).
21. The point of the argument can be illustrated as follows:Suppose that last year a sculptor gave you a full description of a statue he intended making, and that today you are looking at the successfully completed work. Your description of the statue, as it is now, would correspond exactly to the sculptor's description a year ago when the statue as yet had no existence. The description of the statue tells us the nature of the statue, and does not include the statement that "the statue must exist."
To borrow a term from chemistry, the description of a thing's nature may be called its formula. The formula shows us a possible being and nothing more; it shows us a being that can exist; it does not say that the being must exist. We can construct a great number of formulae corresponding to things actually existing, but we know that there must be an indefinitely greater number corresponding to things which, as a fact, have never existed and never will exist, and yet each one of these unknown formulae would fully describe the characteristics of a particular and possible being.
22. You may object that the soul of man is immortal, and therefore must go on existing forever without any help. No that is a false conclusion. The soul of man does not exist of itself; it does not exist without help; if it did, it would never have begun to exist; it would always have existed. But as long as it is kept in existence, it cannot fall to pieces like the body, because it is not made up of parts. Hence, when we say that it is immortal, we mean that it will last forever, unless He who holds it in existence withdraws His help.
23. Max Planck: "Where is Science Going?" p. 196. London: Allen & Unwin, 1933.
24. Electric activity "together with the elemental quantum of action." See Max Planck, ibid.
25. We might have ruled out the discussion of the nebula and fundamental atoms by simply asserting that the word "existence" will not be found in the description of either of them.
26. i.e., "deemed absolute," as the context makes clear.
27. i. e., the physical scientist.
28. Op. cit, pp. 198, 199.
CATHOLICISM AND REASON
Rev. Edward J. Hayes, Rev. Msgr. Paul J. Hayes & James J. Drummey
The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over vast waters.
The voice of the Lord is mighty, the voice of the Lord is majestic. Psalms 29:3-4
The Search for God
Ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds of the air to tell you; or the reptiles on earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of God has done this?Job 12. 7-9.
"Chemistry is important; God is more important." This is the inscription that a visitor slowly pondered as he read the words appearing on the Mohammedan University in Cairo. We can recall those words now and quote them with a certain amount of envy, indeed with a measure of fond hope that they may become a reality in our modern thinking. We might well take this thought to heart.
Yes, chemistry is needed, and modern science, industry, health and pleasure, all have their places and are necessary. But above all God is needed. It is with this subject, God, that we are going to begin.
A man who says that God does not exist is in the same category as a youngster who denies that he had a grandfather simply because he never saw him.
Why is it that an atheist shows such hatred toward religion and God? Hatred must be directed either against an illusion or against a reality. If it is directed against a figment of a man's imagination, the situation would lead us to question his mental balance. If there is no God, why does the atheist show such hatred? Does anyone vehemently hate Cicero or Hannibal or Napoleon? All were hated when they lived, but hatred for them died with them. Hate ceases when the thing hated ceases. Why then the hatred of God and religion by atheists? If their hatred is directed toward something which does not exist, they are bereft of reason. The other conclusion is that what they hate does exist.
We can clearly show by our own unaided reason that God does indeed exist.
In our daily life we accept without question the fact that our human reason is trustworthy. To deny the reliability of man's reason would be to deny the findings of modern science which are our pride and boast. Therefore, if a number of people looking for the answer to a problem all come to the same conclusion, we would be inclined to agree with that answer.
It is a fact that men at all times and in all countries have believed in the existence of God. True, there have been individuals who doubted it, but these are rare exceptions which prove the rule. Every race and tribe, civilized and uncivilized, whether in connection with the rest of the world or isolated in a remote area, profess belief in some sort of god.
From ancient times to the present day all races have believed in a deity. At the very dawn of civilization along the Nile, primitive peoples worshipped a supreme being, leaving behind them evidence of their faith that is studied by the scholar in his library and examined by the visitor to modern museums. The Greeks called their supreme god Zeus; among the Romans Jupiter was the supreme deity; and so it goes down to our own day, all races believing in some sort of supreme deity. No race has yet been found which did not believe in some supreme being.
Perhaps one may object: "Travelers have reported tribes without any belief or religion." Yes, but scientific investigation has definitely proved the contrary. As recently as June, 1971, for example, a primitive tribe was discovered in the Philippines which believed in a god called Diwata, whom their ancestors had told them would someday come to help the tribe.1
In brief, a belief in God has existed among all races, in all times and places, and exists, too, universally among all peoples today. A belief so universal that it cannot be attributed to any one nation, that is present among tribes which have no contact with the rest of the world, cannot be due to chance. If we accept human reason as trustworthy, we must recognize the fact of the existence of God.
We can verify the existence of God in another way, by using the principle that there must be a cause for everything which exists. The fact that we see an egg on the breakfast table is a sign that a chicken exists or did exist; when we see a typewriter, we know that a man with intelligence designed it. The philosophic principle is as simple as that. We can find in the world nothing that is the cause of itself. Everything we observe in the world was caused by something. If we see a book, we know it did not just happen; it was made by a man out of paper and ink. but the paper was made of pulp from wood, which in turn came from trees; the trees grew through the light of the sun. And so we must go back. In everything we can observe in the world there is a long line of causes, each dependent on a higher one before it. Search as we may, no evidence can be found to contradict this assertion. We cannot go back through a line of causes indefinitely. The only conclusion we can reach is that at the beginning of the line there is an Uncaused Cause.
If there were ever a moment at which nothing existed, nothing could ever exist. Nowhere in the world can we find a thing which was not caused. Men believe that nothing can proceed from nothing in the natural world, but when it comes to God's creation, some proclaim, "This is an exception." Yet they do not prove the exception, they merely deny the fact. They do not believe because they do not want to believe.
A man, for instance, was caused by his parents; they in turn by their parents. It does not solve the problem to become vague by going to the distant past. Some have summed up the problem vaguely with such an assertion as this: "The first living being came from lower beings." Then we must ask where these came from. A being cannot cause itself. Perhaps one may say that the sun is responsible for life. Where then does the sun get the power to give life? You cannot give money to a man in need if you simply have no money.
The idea, too, that life just sprang up in the beginning and developed in the course of ages is scientifically unsound, and we might add that Pasteur through his scientific findings proved the impossibility of spontaneous generation many years ago. We must look for another answer Blind chance is ruled out by all reputable scientists. We are back to one solution: Life could have been originally produced only by a Living Cause, which is merely another name for God.
It is not a question of time, nor does it help to add a few million years to the age of the world. Either the last thing in your series of causes was caused or it was not. If it were caused, then we must ask the same question of that thing. If it were not, it is an Uncaused Cause. Everything in the world is caused, but this cannot go on "ad infinitum;" there must be an Uncaused Being at the beginning. This Being we call God.
Briefly: We observe in the world that everything which exists has a cause A series of causes cannot go on indefinitely: it must have a beginning. Therefore, at the beginning there must be an Uncaused Cause. This Uncaused Cause we call God.
There is a third way in which we can prove the existence of God.
Look at your watch. What a marvelous device! Does it not presuppose a watchmaker? Even if you had never seen a watch before, you would conclude immediately and definitely that someone made it. Observe the intricate mechanism with springs and wheels all working togetherthe minute hand traveling precisely sixty times faster than the hour hand; the second hand sixty times faster than the minute hand. You know that such a mechanism did not happen by chance, just several pieces of metal happening together to work in this way, any more than chance could explain the composition of a color television, a computer, or a spaceship that can carry men to the moon and back. Even a child would see the absurdity of such a statement. If you were to argue the point, people would think you either insane or joking.
If a person were to walk along the seashore and come across a word written in the sand, he would conclude that someone had been there. No one would say that such a thing happened by chance, that the wind and waves and sand just formed the word by accident. Obviously it was done by some person with intelligence. Upon seeing a beautiful picture, no one in his right mind would say that it came about by throwing several colors of paint on the wall. Anyone recognizes that a beautiful picture is the product of a man with intelligence, the result of a plan in someone's mind.
Every time we see an object with order or design, we immediately know there was an intelligent designer.
In the great Strasbourg Cathedral there was at one time a huge clock. It showed not only hours and minutes but seconds, days, months, and seasons of the year. In addition, its mechanism moved many small figures, so that the quarter-hours were heralded by a child striking a bell with a hammer; the half-hours by a youth; the three-quarter hours by a middle-aged man; the hours by an old man. Suppose a person were to say of this intricate mechanism: "There is nothing extraordinary about it; there is a pendulum which turns wheels, which in turn brings about movement of the dials."
No, a person viewing such a mechanical masterpiece instinctively exclaims: "What a clever engineer it took to produce this!"
The human body is a greater masterpiece than the clock in France. All parts of the body concur in a wonderful manner to bring about one complete effect. Look at the eye, for example. The act of seeing supposes each time the simultaneous presence of thirteen different conditions. Each of these presupposes many others. Did it all happen by chance? Scientists have calculated that, by the law of chance, without any designing cause, there would be 9,999,985 chances against 15 that all the conditions would concur to make seeing possible. Why, in examining such things which give evidence of order and plan far beyond that found in any man-made mechanism, should we attribute it to chance? An Intelligent Planner is the only answer behind it all.
In the development of a child in the womb and the birth process numerous conditions must be present and major physiological changes must take place in order to bring forth a healthy baby. One of these involves the circulation of blood. In an adult heart, two completely separate circulatory systems keep pure and impure blood from mixing. This separation is not present in the heart of an unborn child, however. There is an opening in the wall of the fetal heart, protected by flaps of tissue, that allows blood to flow uninterrupted through the right auricle and left auricle. But at the time of birthor shortly thereafterthe flaps close and seal the opening shut, thus preventing for a lifetime any mixing of pure and impure blood. This circulatory adjustment is absolutely essential if the baby is to survive. It must occur at the time of birthand it almost always does. Any attempt to ascribe this remarkable adaptation to chance raises more questions than it answers. Wise planning and intelligent design are the only sensible explanations.
In every aspect of our life, whenever we observe orderliness, we know that there was an intelligent planner. Consider the universe, arranged as it is in a marvelous order and design. The earth rotates on its axis once every twenty-four hours; it revolves around the sun once a year The stars move in their orbits with a precision which far overshadows any chronometer made by man. The most accurate clock made by man is not perfect, but falters and must be corrected by the clock of the stars.
As the clock implies an intelligent clockmaker, as the word written in the sand supposes a person with intelligence, as a picture supposes an artist, so the universe, so complex, vast and precise in its working, supposes a Being with greater power and intelligence: so also the intricate working of the human body cannot be attributed to chance, but supposes an Intelligent Being behind it. "Show me a watch without a watchmaker," said G. K. Chesterton, the famous English convert, "then I'll take a universe without a Universe-Maker."
In every part of the animate world we might observe things working out according to a finely detailed plan and order. We may consider just two examples. The bat, in order that its flimsy wings may not become too easily torn, has a gland near its nose containing an oil with which it can lubricate its wings. How does the bat know when it is necessary to oil its wings? Like the bird building its nest or the beaver its dam, the bat operates according to an intelligent plan. As does the one spider, the "Argyroneta aquatica," which builds its home underwater. This amazing insect spins an oval-shaped web just beneath the surface of the water, leaving an opening at the bottom for entrance and egress. Its specially designed hind legs enable it to carry an air bubble down into the water underneath the web. When the bubble is released, it rises and displaces an equal amount of water. The spider continues this process until the web, which resembles a diving bell, is filled with air. Eggs are then laid in the upper part of this airtight and watertight bell and food is gathered and stored for the mother and her soon-to-be hatched progeny. Once this has been completed, the spider closes the opening and spends the winter in this safe and well-stocked home. Who taught the spider how to carry bubbles of air? What made the spider decide to live underwater in the first place? The only logical answer is that there is some Intelligent Designer behind it.
A visit to a planetarium will give a vivid picture of the universe with its innumerable stars and planets and their precise movements. There the technical skills of engineers and astronomers have depicted for us the order and precision of the heavenly bodies which we see at night. The images of the stars and planets are projected upon the ceiling. It is a wonderful work of skill and engineering genius. Suppose a person, after seeing this, were to say, "This does not point to any designer; it just happened by chanceconcrete, metal, wire, lights, all came together to form this." That statement is patently absurd. But is it any worse than saying that the universe, of which the planetarium is only a small picture, is the result of chance? If we are to be logical, we must say that not only is the planetarium the result of a designer, but that the world, which is a much greater masterpiece, is also the result of a Designer.
Strong testimony for the order and precision in the universe comes from America's space pioneers, the men whose missions could never have been planned down to the minutest detail unless scientists and astronomers could be sure of the unchanging and exact conditions of the universe. For those who have rocketed through space, there is no doubt about the existence of an Intelligent Planner whom we call God. Astronaut Gordon Cooper, a veteran of two space flights, has commented:
In my opinion there is no rift between science and religion the more one learns about scientific endeavors, the more one is convinced of the wonders of God's creation. The more one contemplates the complex workings of millions of planetary bodies and the unknown immensity of space, the more one realizes what a fantastic miracle it all is. History bears this out. Today I see evidences that scientists are turning more and more to a belief in God; they have almost been forced to recognize the Creator who made this magnificent, precise universe we live in.2
From July 30 to August 2, 1971, astronaut James B. Irwin spent 67 hours on the surface of the moon. Following his return to earth, he made this observation:
I have encountered nothing on Apollo 15 or in this age of space and science that dilutes my faith in God. While I was on the moon, in fact, I felt a sense of inspiration, a feeling that someone was with me and watching over me, protecting me. There were several times when tasks seemed to be impossible. But they worked out all right every time. We were able to accomplish almost all of our objectives, and I believe it helped to have someone there watching over me.3
Gordon Cooper's statement that scientists are turning more and more to a belief in God has been amply demonstrated by Dr. John Clover Monsma, an ordained Presbyterian minister, who has brought together in two books (The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe and Behind the Dim Unknown) the views of 66 prominent and widely respected natural scientists about God and his awesome presence in the world These scientists have set forth briefly and clearly their reasons for believing in a Divine Creator of the universe.
But what of evolutionthe theory regarding the growth and development of plants, animals, and human beings from earlier and more primitive organisms? Must one who accepts this theory reject the concept of God? Not at all. While a substantial body of evidence has been amassed by scientists in support of evolution, an equally substantial body of evidence is still required to remove the issue completely from the realm of theory, especially as far as the evolution of man's body from pre-existing and living matter is concerned. But even if all the questions are answered, and all the hypotheses are proved, no explanation will make sense unless room is left for the existence of a Creator who got everything started.
God, if He so chose, could have fashioned the universe through an evolutionary process. But whether He did it that way or by direct creation, He still must be acknowledged as its Maker. With this basic premise established, the Church positively encourages diligent investigation and study of the problem by scientists and scholars so that someday we may know with certainty the method which God used to bring men and the universe to their present state of development.4 The ultimate answer will involve no conflict between scientific and religious truth, for God is the Author of both.
It is said that a certain woman expressed the opinion that there can be no God because, if God existed, He would write his Name in the heavens for all to see. Apparently this woman would have huge letters in the sky. In what language, so all could understand? Actually God has written his Name in a universal language: the language of order, of law, of purpose, of design. We have but to open our eyes to see it.
I see His blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see His face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voiceand carven by His Power,
Rocks are His written words.
All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn.
His cross is every tree.5
No matter what way we turn, we are faced with the same conclusionthe world does have a Maker. No matter where we look in the world, we see perfect order and plan. The only conclusion is that there is a Planner.
To put it briefly: Wherever we see a thing in perfect order or acting according to plan, our common sense tells us that there is an Intelligent Planner behind it. All over the earth there are things working in perfect order. Therefore these things demand some Intelligent Planner. This Intelligent Planner we call God.
1. "A Filipino Tribe Leaves Stone Age," New York Times, July 18, 1971, p. 15.
2. L. Gordon Cooper Jr., "God and Man in Space," Friar, November, 1969, p. 27.
3. James B. Irwin, "In Mountains; 'I Felt Right at Home,'" New York Times, August 14, 1971, p. 16.
4. Pope Paul VI, "Address to Theologians and Scientists Attending A Symposium on Original Sin," July 11, 1966. Included in "The Catechism of Modern Man," Boston, Massachusetts: Daughters of St. Paul, 1968, pp. 649-656.
5. Joseph Mary Plunkett, "I See His Blood Upon the Rose," "The Catholic Anthology," ed. Thomas Walsh, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1927, p. 428.