Written by Vladimir Moss



“As we move from 1900… the evil one will enable science to achieve such huge imaginary advances that people will be misled and no longer believe in the existence of the Triune God.”

St. Nilus the Myrrh-gusher (+1651) 

     David Berlinski is a distinguished American academic with qualifications in the fields of physics, mathematics, biology and philosophy. He is also a secular Jew and an agnostic. Nevertheless, in his book The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions (New York: Basic Books, 2009), he claims that the major grand theories of contemporary physics, “these splendid artifacts of the human imagination”, as he calls them, “have made the world more mysterious than it ever was. We know better than we did what we do not know and have not grasped. We do not know how the universe began. We do not know why it is there. Charles Darwin talked speculatively of life emerging from a ‘warm little pond’. The pond is gone. We have little idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that it did. We cannot reconcile our understanding of the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions. Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. We can say nothing of interest about the human soul. We do not know what impels us to right conduct or where the form of the good is found.” (p. xv)

     Berlinski is concerned to defend religion (even if he personally will not commit himself to it) at a time when scientists in the tradition of Richard Dawkins appear to be becoming ever more hostile towards it. Although his writing is at times over-witty and difficult to understand, he often hits the nail on the head. So let us look at some of his valuable insights, appending some 20 comments and conclusions of our own (in italics):-

     “After comparing more than two thousand DNA samples, an American molecular geneticist, Dean Hamer, concluded that a person’s capacity to believe in God is linked to his brain chemicals. Of all things! Why not his urine? Perhaps it will not be amiss to observe that Dr. Hamer has made the same claim about homosexuality, and if he has refrained from arguing that a person’s capacity to believe in molecular genetics is linked to a brain chemical, it is, no doubt, owing to a prudent sense that once that door is open, God knows how and when anyone will ever slam it shut again.” (pp. 8-9)

1.     If the science claims to explain all our mental activity in terms of chemicals, then the inescapable conclusion is that all our thinking is not free or rational, but is determined by brain chemistry. But if that is so, then there is no reason to believe that our thinking is true. And if that is so, there is no reason to believe the proposition that our thinking is determined by our brain chemistry.

     Berlinski finds a striking anticipation of modern concerns about science in the writing of the medieval Arab philosopher Hamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali. “The naturalists argue, he observes, that ‘intellectual power in man is dependent on [his] temperament.’ It is a point that neurophysiologists would today make by arguing that the mind (or the soul) is dependent on the brain, or even that the mind is the brain. From this it follows that ‘as the temperament is corrupted, intellect is also corrupted and ceases to exist.’ When the brain is destroyed, so, too, is the mind. Death and disease mark the end of the mind. On the naturalistic view, Al Ghazali argues, ‘the soul dies and does not return to life’. The globe of consciousness shrinks in each of us until it is no larger than a luminous point, and then it winks out.

     “But if this is a matter of fact, Al Ghazali argues, it is a matter of profound scientific and moral consequence. Why should a limited and finite organ such as the human brain have the power to see into the heart of matter or mathematics? These are subjects that have nothing to do with the Darwinian biology has not yet answered. By the same token, to place in doubt the survival of the soul is to ‘deny the future life – heaven, hell, resurrection, and judgement.’ And this is to corrupt the system of justice by which life must be regulated, because ‘there does not remain any reward for obedience, or any punishment for sin.’

    “With this curb removed, Al Ghazali predicts, men and women will give way to ‘a bestial indulgence of their appetites.’” (pp. 16-17 

2.     Not only rationality, but also morality, is undermined by the naturalist programme. For if the mind of man is identified with his brain, and disappears at death, neither will good be rewarded nor evil punished in the life to come. More fundamentally, there will be no reason to judge men in accordance with their works; for if their works are determined by their brain states, over which they have no control (for they are their brain states), there is no basis on which to reward or punish them, since they will merit neither reward nor punishment.

      “For scientists persuaded that there is no God, there is no finer pleasure than recounting the history of religious brutality and persecution. Sam Harris is in this regard especially enthusiastic, The End of Faith recounting in lurid but lingering detail the methods of torture used in the Spanish Inquisition. If readers require pertinent information concerning the strappado, or other instruments of doctrinal persuasion, they may turn to his pages. There is no need to argue the point. A great deal of human suffering has been caused by religious fanaticism. If the Inquisition no longer has the power to compel our indignation, the Moslem world often seems quite prepared to carry the burden of exuberant depravity in its place.

     “Nonetheless, there is this awkward fact: The twentieth century was not an age of faith, and it was awful. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot will never be counted among the religious leaders of mankind.

     “Nor can anyone argue that the horrors of the twentieth century were unanticipated. Although they came as a shock, they did not come as a surprise. In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan Karamazov exclaims that if God does not exist, then everything is permitted…” (p. 19)

3.     Religion, whether true or false, cannot be blamed for the worst crimes of human history; for if deluded heretics, unchecked by true morality, have committed outrageous acts, these pale into insignificance by comparison with the cruelty and scale of the horrors carried out by the militant atheist dictators of the twentieth century. Their philosophy was founded on, and inspired by, Darwinism and the idea of the survival of the fittest. As long as the bestial philosophy of Darwinism reigns, it can be assumed that the rise of further bestial dictators is inevitable.

     Berlinski lists a number of “moral concerns that are prompted by biology… The list is already long: abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia, infanticide, cloning, animal-human hybrids, sexual deviancy. It will get longer, as scientists with no discernible sense of responsibility to human nature come extravagantly to interfere in human life. In his Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris argues that ‘qualms’ about stem-cell research are ‘obsessive’, because they are ‘morally indefensible’. And they are morally indefensible because they represent nothing more than ‘faith-based irrationality’…

     “What moral philosophers have called the slippery slope has proven in recent decades to be slippery enough to seem waxed. It is, if anything, more slippery than ever. In 1984, Holland legalized euthanasia. Critics immediately objected that Dutch doctors, having been given the right to kill their elderly patients at their request, would almost at once find reasons to kill patients at their whim. This is precisely what happened. The Journal of Medical Ethics, in reviewing Dutch hospital practices, reported that 3 percent of Dutch deaths for 1995 were assisted suicides, and that of these, fully one-fourth were involuntary. The doctors simply knocked their patients off, no doubt assuring the family that Grootmoeder would have wanted it that way. As a result a great many elderly Dutch carry around sanctuary certificates indicating in no uncertain terms that they do not wish their doctors to assist them to die, emerging from their coma, when they are ill, just long enough to tell these murderous pests for heaven’s sake to go away. The authors of the study, Henk Jochensen and John Keown, reported with some understatement that ‘Dutch claims of effective regulation ring hollow.’

     “Euthanasia, as Dr. Peggy Norris observed with some asperity, ‘cannot be controlled.’” (pp. 31, 32).

4.     Not only totalitarian dictators proceed from naturalist assumptions to the slaughter of millions. Even in advanced democracies, the cult of scientism has led to murderous practices such as euthanasia. The argument seems to be: If it is scientifically possible, try it – for science’s sake, if for no other reason…

      “To scientific atheists, he ancient idea that homo homini lupus – man is a wolf to man – leaves them shaking their heads in poodle-like perplexity. Sam Harris has no anxieties whatsoever about presenting his own views on human morality with the enviable confidence of a man who feels that he has reached the epistemological bottom. ‘Everything about human experience,’ he writes, ‘suggests that love is more conducive to human happiness than hate is.’ It goes without saying, of course, that this is an objective claim about the human mind.

     “If this is so, it is astonishing with what eagerness men have traditionally fled happiness.” (p. 34).

5.     Contemporary science rejects with horror the “medieval” idea of original sin, with the result that its concepts of human nature are impossibly naïve and superficial. The concept of man as no more than a sophisticated animal makes the satanic depths of human evil incomprehensible. A fortiori, the heights of human joy are completely beyond the ken of scientific atheism.

     “’The West,’ the philosopher Richard Rorty writes, ‘has cobbled together, in the course of the last two hundred years, a specifically secularist moral tradition – one that regards the free consensus of the citizens of a democratic society, rather than the Divine Will, as the source of moral imperatives.’ The words the free consensus, although sonorous, come to nothing more than the declaration that just so long as there is rough agreement within society, what its leaders say goes. This was certainly true of Nazi Germany…

     “Richard Rorty was to his great credit honest in facing the consequences of his own moral posture. He had no criticism to offer Nazi Germany beyond a personal sense of revulsion.

     “If moral imperatives are not commanded by God’s will, and if they are not in some sense absolute, then what ought to be is a matter simply of what men and women decide should be. There is no other source of judgement.

     “What is this if not another way of saying that if God does not exist, everything is permitted?” (pp. 39, 40)

6.     Scientism goes naturally with egalitarianism, democratism and moral relativism. Just as materialism and determinism undermine the very concept of truth, so democratism and egalitarianism undermine the concept of absolute moral values; for if what the majority believes is right, then what is right changes from one place to another, from one people to another, and from one day to another. Only in God can truth and justice be rooted in an immutable union of fact and value, what is with what should be. If truth and justice are absolutes, then it is quite possible for one man to be right and the rest of the world wrong. In fact, it is possible that the whole world is wrong and God alone is right.

     “’Everything,’ the philosopher Alexander Byrne has remarked, ‘is a natural phenomenon.’ Quite so. But each of those natural phenomena is, Byrne believes, simply ‘an aspect of the universe revealed by the natural sciences.’ If what is natural has been defined in terms of what the natural sciences reveal, no progress in thought has been recorded. If not, what reason is there to conclude that everything is an ‘aspect of the universe revealed by the natural sciences’?

     “There is no reason at all…” (p. 51)

7.     Scientism tries to exclude the possibility of miracles by defining reality in terms of what has been revealed by the natural sciences. But this is a circular argument: reality is defined in terms of what just one method of studying reality, science, chooses to study. It is impossible to exclude the possibility of miracles on the basis of science alone.

     “Is there a God who has among other things created the universe? ‘It is not by its conclusions,’ C.F. von Weizsacker has written in The Relevance of Science, ‘but by its methodological starting point that modern science excludes direct creation. Our methodology would not be honest if this face were denied… such is the faith in the science of our time, and which we all share’ (italics added).” (pp. 60-61)

8.     It is not true that science has searched for God and not found Him. Scientism has so framed its methodological assumptions that it excludes invisible, immaterial and non-spatiotemporal beings from its survey. The paradox is that the objects it claims to have discovered as the fundamental building blocks of the universe – curved space-time, particles that can be in two places at once, quantum fields, gravity, black holes and singularities (where the laws of physics no longer work) and even multiverses in which all possible outcomes are in fact actual – are about as far removed from our traditional understanding of the world as it is possible to imagine.

     Berlinski now turns to expounding the cosmological argument as found in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Aquinas argues that no effect can be without an antecedent cause, but that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes going back forever in time. “It is not possible, to go on to infinity, because in all… causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate [last] cause.” Berlinski continues:“If a series of causes does not start, it cannot get going, and if it does not get going, then there will be no intermediate causes, and if there are no intermediate causes, then over here, where we have just noticed that a blow has caused a bruise, there is no explanation for what is before our eyes. Either there is a first cause of there is no cause at all, and since there are causes at work in nature, there must be a first. The first cause, Aquinas identified with God, because in at least one respect, a first cause exhibits an important property of the divine: It is uncaused.

     “This is a weak but not an absurd argument, and while Aquinas’ conclusion may not be true, objections to his argument are frequently inept. Thus Richard Dawkins writes that Aquinas ‘makes the entirely unwarranted assumption that God is immune to the regress.’ It is a commonly made criticism. Lumbering dutifully in Dawkins’ turbulent wake, Victor Stenger makes it as well. But Aquinas makes no such assumption, and thus none that could be unwarranted. It is conclusion of his argument that causes in nature cannot form an infinite series 

     “A far better objection has long been common in the philosophical literature: While an infinite series of causes has no first cause, it does not follow (does it?) that any specified effect is without a cause. Never mind the first cause. This blow has caused that bruise. The chain of causes starting with the blow may be chased into the past to any finite extent, but no matter how far back it is chased, effects will always have causes, Why, then, is that first cause so very important?

     “But this is a counterargument at which common sense is inclined to scruple. Seeing an endless row of dominoes toppling before our eyes, would we without pause say that no first domino set the other dominoes to toppling? (pp. 67-69)

9.     Human thought, both scientific (in the Big Bang Theory) and commonsensical and religious, sees the history of the universe as going back to a first cause. For if there were no first cause, there would be nothing to set the causal nexus going. However, the first cause must be in some sense outside the causal nexus taken as a whole; and it must itself be uncaused (and immaterial and non-spatiotemporal). Otherwise, if it were part of the causal nexus, it would itself require a causal explanation. This is explicitly recognized by religious thought, which calls God as the Uncaused Cause and “Beginning of all beginnings”.

     “The universe, orthodox cosmologists believe, came into existence [about 13.8 billion years ago] as the expression of an explosion – what is now called the Big Bang. The word explosion is a sign that words have failed us, as they so often do, for it suggests a humanly comprehensible event – a gigantic explosion or a stupendous eruption. But this is absurd. The Big Bang was not an event taking place at a time or in a place. Space and time were themselves created by the Big Bang, the measure along with the measured…

     “If the Big Bang expresses a new idea in physics, it suggests an old idea in thought: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. This unwelcome juxtaposition of physical and biblical ideas persuaded the astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, an ardent atheist, to dismiss the Big Bang after he had named it. In this he was not alone. Many physicists have found the idea that the universe had a beginning alarming. ‘So long as the universe had a beginning,’ Stephen Hawking has written ‘we could suppose it had a creator.’ God forbid!..

     “For more than a century, physicists had taken a manful pride in the fact that theirs was a discipline that celebrated the weird, the bizarre, the unexpected, the mind-bending, and the recondite. Here was a connection that any intellectual primitive could at once grasp: The universe had a beginning, thus something must have caused it to happen. Where would physics be, physicists asked themselves, if we had paid the slightest attention to the obvious?...

      “If both theory and evidence suggested that the universe had a beginning, it was natural for physicists to imagine that by tweaking the evidence and adjusting the theory, they could get rid of what they did not want [God]. Perhaps the true and the good universe – the one without a beginning – might be reached by skirting the Big Bang singularity, or bouncing off it in some way? But in the mid-1960s, Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking demonstrated that insofar as the backward contraction of the universe was controlled by the equations of general relativity almost all lines of conveyance came to an end.

     “The singularity was inescapable.

     “This conclusion encouraged the theologians but did little to ease physicists in their own minds, for while it strengthened the unwholesome conclusion that Big Bang cosmology had already established, it left a good deal else in a fog. In many ways, this was the worst of all possible worlds. Religious believers had emerged from their seminars well satisfied with what they could understand; the physicists themselves could understand nothing very well.

     “The fog that attended the Penrose-Hawking singularity theorems (there is more than one) arose spontaneously whenever physicists tried to determine just what the singularity signified. At the singularity itself, a great many physical parameters zoom to infinity. Just what is one to make of infinite temperature? Or particles that are no distance from one another? The idea of a singularity, as the astronomer Joseph Silk observed, is ‘completely unacceptable as a physical description of the universe… An infinitely dense universe [is] where the laws of physics, and even space and time, break down.’” (pp. 69, 70-71, 78-79)

10.  The Big Bang theory posits a beginning state of the universe that is contrary to the laws of physics. In other words, it is physically impossible. This is an enormous problem for atheist physics, which assumes the law-governed nature of all things, but not for traditional religious thought, which recognizes a Law-giver as well as the law. For if God is the Cause of the entire spatio-temporal universe, then the causality joining God to the universe, as it were, must itself be beyond space and time and not subject to physical laws. For this is not the link between a material cause and a material effect, which expresses a physical law, but the link between the Creator and the whole of His physical creation, that is, all material causes and effects taken together as a single system.

     “If nothing else, the facts of Big Bang cosmology indicate that one objection to the argument that Thomas Aquinas offered is empirically unfounded: Causes in nature do come to an end. If science has shown that God does not exist, it has not been by appealing to Big Bang cosmology. The hypothesis of God’s existence and the facts of contemporary cosmology are consistent. (p. 80)

11.  However, in order for God’s existence and the supposed facts of contemporary cosmology to be consistent, more is required. First, the assumptions of contemporary physics must be changed in order that the “completely unacceptable” in physical terms may become acceptable. Secondly, we must be assured that cosmology has truly reached the end of its development. That is, we must be sure that the Big Bang theory is its final word, and that physicists will not revert to some new version of, for example, the Steady State theory that sees the universe as infinite and without beginning or end. For while God has said that “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall never pass away”, this cannot be said about the ever-changing words of physicists. And this is a good thing at the present time. For while the currently fashionable Big Bang theory appears closer in some ways to traditional religious thought than some of its predecessors, the general project of universal evolutionism from Big Bang to Homo Sapiens is still very far from consistent, not only with many scientifically established facts, but also with the Divine Cosmology – that is, God’s own record of His work of creation.

     Why does the universe exist at all? “Oxford’s Peters Atkins has attempted to address this issue. ‘If we are to be honest,’ he argues, ‘then we have to accept that science will be able to claim complete success only if it achieves what many might think impossible: accounting for the emergence of everything from absolutely nothing.’ Atkins does not seem to recognize that when the human mind encounters the thesis that something has emerged from nothing, it is not encountering a question to which any coherent answer exists. His confidence that a scientific answer must nonetheless be forthcoming needs to be assessed in other terms, possibly those involving clinical self-delusion.” (pp. 95-96)

12.  The theologians say that God created the universe out of nothing; the physicists say that it “emerged” from nothing. The first explanation has much more to commend it than the second, because while we cannot know how God created everything out of nothing, the idea is nevertheless comprehensible, because the idea of a Creator Who is incomprehensible to His creatures is quite comprehensible, and because God is at any rate something and not nothing. It also has the advantage that it provides possible answers to the question “Why?” in the sense of “For what purpose?” We can say, for example, that God created the universe because his nature is love, and He wants creatures to exist in order to share in His love. The second explanation, however, not only provides no conceivable answer to the questions “How?” and “Why”. It is itself nonsensical. For out of nothing nothing can come…

     Physicists nevertheless continue to issue statements insisting that the “nothing” out of which the universe appears to emerge is in fact something, such as: “’The actual Universe probably derived from an indeterminate sea of potentiality that we call the quantum vacuum, whose properties may always remain beyond our current understanding.’…

     “The Sea of Indeterminate Potentiality, and all cognate concepts, belong to a group of physical arguments with two aims. The first is to find a way around the initial singularity of standard Big Bang cosmology. Physicists accept this aim devoutly because the Big Bang singularity strikes an uncomfortably theistic note. Nothing but intellectual mischief can result from leaving that singularity where it is. Who knows what poor ideas religious believers might take from cosmology were they to imagine that in the beginning the universe began?

     “The second aim is to account for the emergence of the universe in some way that will allow physicists to say with quiet pride that they have gotten the thing to appear from nothing, and especially nothing resembling a deity or a singularity.” (pp. 96, 97-98)

     13. Nothing can be induced to come out of nothing if the original nothing can be redefined as nothing actually, but something potentially. However, it is difficult to understand how a potential something which does not actually exist is in any better position to explain the emergence of everything. For “beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better”, and the lesser can only be created by, or emerge from, that which is greater than itself. God is great, and by definition greater than everything that He has created. But that which is only potentially real is lesser than that which is actually real, and so the latter cannot be said to owe its existence to the former 

     Another problem with things that are things only potentially is that there is no way of telling what kind of thing they will actually become. The possibilities are literally infinite. And one interpretation of quantum physics is that when the sea of potential being – also called “the wave function of the universe” – comes up against an observer, it “collapses” into a multitude of universes, or “multiverse”. Thus “according to the many-worlds interpretation, at precisely the moment a measurement is made, the universe branches into two or more universes… The new universes cluttering up creation embody the quantum states that were previously in a state of quantum superposition…

     “The wave function of the universe is designed to represent the behavior of the universe – all of it. It floats in the void – these metaphors are inescapable – and passes judgement on universes. Some are probable, others are likely, and still others a very bad bet. Nevertheless, the wave function of the universe cannot be seen, measured, assessed, or tested. It is a purely theoretical artifact.” (pp. 99-100)   

     And so: “Quantum cosmology is a branch of mathematical metaphysics. It provides no cause for the emergence of the universe, and so does not answer the first cosmological question [how?], and it offers no reason for the existence of the universe, and so does not address the second [why?]. If the mystification induced by its modest mathematics were removed from the subject, what remains does not appear appreciably different in kind from various creation myths in which the origin of the universe is attributed to sexual congress between primordial deities.” (pp. 106-107)

14.  So after veering towards something in some respects resembling traditional Judaeo-Christian religion in the Big Bang theory, cosmology appears now, without abandoning the concept of the Big Bang, to have to have veered off in a quite different direction – towards a sophisticated form of Hinduism, whose creation myth tells of a quasi-sexual explosion of multiple seeds of universes through the union of Brahma, “the germ of all being”, with his consort Saraswathi. For is not “the sea of indeterminate probability” or “wave function of the universe” a kind of modern version of “the germ of all being”, which explodes out of potential being into a multitude of actual universes after coming into contact with an observer? (And who could this observer be if not God?) It looks as if the physicists have regressed even further into the mists of magical, pre-scientific paganism, producing, in Macbeth’s words, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, but which the physicists would like to believe signifies anything and everything.

     Berlinski now turns to a fact that has only recently come to light but that provides one of the strongest proofs for the existence of God, the so-called “Anthropic Principle”: “In a paper entitled ‘Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology’, published in 1974, the physicist Brandon Carter observed that many physical properties of the universe appeared fine-tuned to permit the appearance of living systems.

     “What a lucky break – things have just worked out.

     “What an odd turn of phrase – fine-tuned.

     “What an unexpected word – permit.

     “Whether lucky, odd, or unexpected, the facts are clear. The cosmological constant is a number controlling the expansion of the universe. If it were negative, the universe would appear doomed to contract in upon itself, and if positive, equally doomed to expand out from itself. Like the rest of us, the universe is apparently doomed no matter what it does. And here is the odd point: If the cosmological constant were larger than it is, the universe would have expanded too quickly, and if smaller, if would have collapsed too early, to permit the appearance of living systems. Very similar observations have been made with respect to protons, the rate of the electromagnetic force to the gravitational force, even the speed of light.” (pp. 109-110) 

15.  So far 10 physical and chemical constants – like the distance between the earth and the sun – have been discovered, which, if they were changed even to a very small degree, would make life on earth impossible. The religious and commonsense conclusion is that, since it is quite extraordinarily improbable that these constants could exist together by chance, this shows that God created the world in order that man and the animals should live in it. However, physicists manage to avoid even this obvious conclusion…

     For the physicist determined, by hook or by crook, to deny the existence of God, the above-mentioned concept of a multitude of parallel universes comes in very useful at this point. For while the Anthropic Principle makes it look as if the existence of life on earth is “a fix”, “a put-up job” deliberately engineered and calibrated with extreme precision by a Divine Master Engineer, this is not so, according to the physicists, because, given an infinite number of universes, our “finely tuned” universe must have appeared by chance at some time or another. This is similar to the Darwinists’ claim that, given an ape with a typewriter and many hundred of millions of years, he is bound to come up with the Works of Shakespeare, Newton and Einstein at some time!

     “Philosophers have found the restriction of their thoughts to just one universe burdensome. In the late 1960s, David Lewis assigned possible worlds ontological benefits previously assigned to worlds that are real. In some possible world, Lewis argued, Julius Caesar is very much alive. He is endeavouring to cross the Hudson instead of the Rubicon, and fuming, no doubt, at the delays before the toll booth on the George Washington Bridge. It is just as parochial to reject this world as unreal, Lewis argued, as it would be to reject Chicago because it cannot be seen from New York. Lewis argued brilliantly [!] for this idea, known as modal realism. The absurdity of the resulting view was not an impediment to his satisfaction…” (p. 122)

     “Given sufficiently many universes, what is true here need not be true there, and vice versa.” (p. 123).

     Physicists have called this idea “the Landscape” (i.e. the landscape of all universes). “It is all purpose in its intent. It works no matter what the theory. And it works by means of the simple principle that by multiplying universes, the Landscape dissolves improbabilities. To the question What are the odds? The Landscape provides the invigorating answer that it hardly matters. If the fine-structure constant has in our universe one value, in some other universe it has another value. Given sufficiently many universes, things improbably in one must from the perspective of all be certain.

     “The same reasoning applies to questions about the laws of nature. Why is Newton’s universal law of gravitation true? No need to ask. In another universe, it is not.

     “The Big Fix has by this maneuver been supplanted by the Sure Thing.” (p. 124)

16.  “Modal realism”, or “the Landscape”, the idea that everything that could possibly happen has already happened, is already happening or will one day happen in some part of the multiverse, represents the completely bankruptcy of physical and philosophical thought. Far from being a form of realism, it is fantastical in the extreme. It undermines the very concept of truth.

     Berlinski now considers the question posed by the cosmologist Joel Primack: “What is it that makes the electrons continue to follow the laws?’ There are three possible answers to this question: God, logic or nothing.

(i)            “Medieval theologians understood this question, and they appreciated its power. They offered in response the answer that to their way of thinking made intuitive sense: Deus est ubique conservans mundum. God is everywhere conserving the world. It is God that makes the electron follow His laws.

(ii)          “Albert Einstein understood the question as well. His deepest intellectual urge, he remarked, was to know whether God had any choice in the creation of the universe. If He did, then the laws of nature are as they are by virtue of His choice. If He did not, then the laws of nature must be necessary, their binding sense of obligation imposed on the cosmos in virtue of their form The electron thus follows the laws of nature because it cannot do anything else. It is logic that makes the electron follow its laws.

(iii)        “And Brandon Carter, Leonard Susskind, and Steven Weinberg understand the question well. Their answer is the Landscape and Anthropic Principle. There are universes in which the electron continues to follow some law, and those in which is does not. In a Landscape in which everything is possible, nothing is necessary. In a universe in which nothing is necessary, anything is possible. It is nothing that makes the electron follow any laws.

     “This is the question to which all discussions of the Landscape and the Anthropic Principle are tending, and because the same question can be raised with respect to moral thought, it is a question with an immense and disturbing intellectual power.

     “For scientific atheists, the question answers itself: Better logic than nothing, and better nothing than God. It is a response that serves moral as well as physical thought….

     “It is a choice that offers philosophers and physicists little room in which to maneuver. All attempts to see the laws of nature as statements that are true in virtue of their form have been unavailing. The laws of nature, as Isaac Newton foresaw, are not laws of logic, nor ar they like the laws of logic. Physicists since Einstein have tried to see in the laws of nature a formal structure that would allow them to say to themselves, ‘Ah, that is why they are true,’ and they have failed…

     “While better logic than nothing is still on the menu, it is no longer on the table. There remains better nothing than God as the living preference among physicists and moral philosophers. It is a remarkably serviceable philosophy. In moral thought, nothing comes to moral relativism; and philosophers can see no reason whatsoever that they should accept any very onerous moral constraints have found themselves gratified to discover that there are no such constraints they need accept. The Landscape and Anthropic Principle represent the ascendance of moral relativism in physical thought.” (pp. 132-133, 134)

17.  All law – natural, logical and moral – presupposes a Lawgiver. Contemporary physics denies this link, offering nothing in its place. In addition, it undermines the concept of law itself, for law becomes applicable in one universe, but not in another, for no reason at all. The result is lawlessness and chaos, with no explanation of how or why anything should be what it is.

     “If the double ideas of the Landscape and the Anthropic Principle do not suffice to answer the question why we live in a universe that seems perfectly designed for human life, a great many men and women will conclude that it is perfectly designed for human life, and they will draw the appropriate consequences [about God] from their conjecture.

     “What is awkward is just that at a moment when the community of scientists had hoped that they had put all that behind them so as to enjoy a universe that was safe [from God], sane, secular, and sanitized, somehow the thing they had been so long avoiding has managed to clamber back into contention as a living possibility in thought.

     “That is very awkward.” (p. 136)

18.  The further contemporary physics has gone in its attempt to deny the existence of God, the more clearly they have demonstrated that He must exist.

     Berlinski now proceeds to discuss an argument of Richard Dawkins against the existence of God. The universe, Dawkins says, is improbable. In view of this, “it is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable”, that is, that God created the universe (p. 142).

     Berlinski replies that arguments like these “endeavor to reconcile two incompatible tendencies in order to force a dilemma. On the one hand, there is the claim that the universe is improbable; on the other, the claim that God made the universe. Considered jointly, these claims form an unnatural union. Probabilities belong to the world in which things happen because they might, creation to the world in which things happen because they must. We explain creation by appealing to creators, whether deities or the inflexible laws of nature. We explain what is chancy by appealing to chance. We cannot do both. If God did make the world, it is not improbable. If it is improbable, then God did not make it. The best we could say is that God made a world that would be improbable had it been made by chance.

     “But it wasn’t, and so He didn’t.

     “This is a discouraging first step in an argument said to come close to proving that God does not exist.” (pp. 143-144)

     The argument is in any case close to tautological; for “the inference that Dawkins proposes to champion has as its premise the claim that God is improbable; its conclusion is that likely God does not exist” (p. 144). And it has a startling corollary: “Dawkins never once considers that by parity of reasoning he could well have concluded that the existence of the universe is unlikely in virtue of its improbability” (pp. 145-146). But there is a still more fundamental problem with this type of reasoning 

19.  It makes no sense to speak about the probability or improbability of God. We evaluate events in terms of their probability by calculating how likely it is that they should emerge from a certain initial state in accordance with the laws of nature as we know them. But God is not an event in nature, nor is He subject to the laws of nature. The same applies to the universe as a whole. We cannot say that it is probable or improbable: it simply is. At best (although this, too, is dubious), we can attempt to evaluate how likely it is that the universe as we know it today evolved by chance over a period of 13.8 billion years from an initial state of a singularity. And the result of such a calculation must be: every single discrete step in this “ascent of being” is fantastically improbable, making the whole process of universal evolution simply impossible.

     The most improbable steps of all are the last ones that lead up to the emergence of Homo Sapiens.“In an interesting essay published in 1869 and entitled ‘Sir Charles Lyell on Geological Climates and the Origin of Species’, [Alfred] Wallace outlined his sense that evolution was inadequate to explain certain obvious features of the human race. The essay if of great importance. It marks a falling away in faith on the part of a sensitive biologist previously devoted to [evolutionist] ideas he had himself introduced. Certain of our ‘physical characteristics’, he observed, ‘are not explicable on the theory of variation and survival of the fittest.’ These include the human brain, the organs of speech and articulation, the human hand, and the external human form, with its upright posture and bipedal gait. It is only human beings who can rotate their thumb and right finger in what is called ulnar opposition in order to achieve a grip, a grasp, and a degree of torque denied any of the great apes. No other item on Wallace’s list has been ticked off against real understanding in evolutionary thought. What remains is fantasy of the sort in which the bipedal gait is assigned to an unrecoverable ancestor wishing to peer (or pee) over tall savannah grasses.

     “The argument that Wallace made with respect to the human body he made again with respect to the human mind. There it gathers force. Do we understand why alone among the animals, human beings have acquired language? Or a refined and delicate moral system, or art, architecture, music, dance, or mathematics? This is a severely abbreviated list. The body of Western literature and philosophy is an extended commentary on human nature, and over the course of more than four thousand years, it has not exhausted its mysteries. ‘You could not discover the limits of soul,’ Heraclitus wrote, ‘not even if you traveled down every road. Such is the depth of its form. 

     “Yet there is no evident distinction, Wallace observed, between the mental powers of the most primitive human being and the most advanced. Raised in England instead of the Ecuadorian Amazon, a native child of the head-hunting Jivaro, destined otherwise for a life spent loping through the jungle, would learn to speak perfect English, and would upon graduation from Oxford or Cambridge have the double advantage of a modern intellectual worldview and a commercially valuable ethnic heritage. He might become a mathematician, he would understand the prevailing moral and social mores perfectly, and for all anyone knows (or could tell), he might find himself a BBC commentator, explaining lucidly the cultural significance of head-hunting and arguing for its protection.

     “From this it follows, Wallace argued, that characteristic human abilities must be latent in primitive man, existing somehow as an unopened gift, the entryway to a world that primitive man does not possess and would not recognize.

      “But the idea that a biological species might possess latent powers makes no sense in Darwinian terms. It suggests the forbidden doctrine that evolutionary advantages were front-loaded far away and long ago; it is in conflict with the Darwinian principle that useless genes are subject to negative selection pressure and must therefore find themselves draining away into the sands of time.

     “Wallace identified a frank conflict between his own theory and what seemed to him obvious facts about the solidity and unchangeability of human nature.

     “The conflict persists; it has not been resolved…” (pp. 157-159)

     So there is a vast difference between men and apes. And yet “the kinship between human beings and the apes has been promoted in contemporary culture as a moral virtue as well as a zoological fact. It functions as a hedge against religious belief, and so it is eagerly advanced…” (p. 160)

     “[However,] before putting aside so carelessly ‘the idea that man was created in the image of God,’ first consider the ideas you propose to champion in its place.

     “If they are no good, why champion them?

     “And they are no good. So why champion them?” (p. 165)

20.  We shall leave Berlinski’s argument at this point. In summary, he demonstrates that scientists have failed to disprove three statements which, for mysterious psychological reasons, they desperately want to deny: that God exists, that God created the heavens and the earth, and that man is made in the image of God (and not of the beast). The scientists’ nihilistic beliefs to the contrary are in the strict sense delusional and a discredit to human thought and science.


November 21 / December 4, 2014.

Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.







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