Damien F. Mackey
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe”, Hawking said …. “But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist”.
“… we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God …”.
This is the sort of incongruous statement that will inevitably occur when scientists, possessing not a vestige of sound knowledge of natural (or philosophical) theology – let alone of a higher Theology – presume to pontificate philosophically about God and the universe.
As we learned in Part One, the early scientists were most reluctant to enter into such exalted realms which they properly understood to be beyond their range of disciplinary competence. But all that began to change with the positivists, and now it is the customary thing for scientists of renown to imagine that they are also competent as philosophers. The result of this presumption is generally quite as ridiculous as according to the following description of Teilhard de Chardin from Triumph magazine, referring to his paper, “The Human Sense”:
As the reader goes through this longish essay, he will be struck by Teilhard’s boorishness. Where he is not outrageous, he is insufferably silly. Whether he assumes the garb of the sociologist, the theologian or the historian of ideas, the result is always the same: the garb hangs in bulky and comic surplus around the shoulders of a midget. ….
[End of quote]
This is the sad fate of all modern-day Sophists whose hubris leads them to echo, uncritically, the famous dictum of Protagoras: ‘Man is the measure of all things’.
To which Plato replied: ‘God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not man, as men commonly say: the words are far more true of Him’.
“… if there were a God …”, to quote Hawking, then He, the Creator, would be far beyond the judgment of the creatures He created. That is the lesson that the prophet Job had to learn. That the ancients could be far more wise regarding the nature of God is an indication that – contrary to the pseudo-science of the likes of de Chardin – intellectually, we are not evolving.
- Thus Elihu in the Book of Job (36:26): ‘God is truly awesome, beyond what we know; the number of his years is unknowable’.
- And Isaiah 40:13: “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him?”
- And Paul (Romans 11:34): “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
Stephen Hawking is undoubtedly most competent when confining himself to the rigorous realm of theoretical physics. Pope Francis, in a recent meeting with Hawking and other renowned scientists who gathered in Rome for a five-day session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, told the group of scientists and experts that it is more vital than ever that they work with the religious community to create solutions for serious issues facing the world, including climate change. Additionally, the Argentine-born pope called on the scientists to work “free of political, economic or ideological interests”.
Stick to what you are good at.
Within their own microcosmic world the scientists are indeed ‘creators’.
Dr. Gavin Ardley beautifully explains this in his classic book on the philosophy of science, Aquinas and Kant, The Foundations of the Modern Sciences, with reference to Kant:
The Two Orders
As a preliminary to their discussions philosophers frequently analyse the world into parts which they then proceed to examine. As an instance let us take Kant’s statement in the Critique of Pure Reason. He writes [B. 89]:
Transcendental analytic consists in the dissection of all our a priori knowledge into the elements that pure understanding by itself yields.
Let us consider what is involved in this process of analysis or dissection. In ‘dissection’ it is instructive to compare the practices of, say, the anatomist and the butcher. When an anatomist dissects a rabbit or a sheep he traces out the real structure of the animal. He lays bare the veins the nerves, the muscles, the organs, and so on. He reveals the actual structure which is there before him waiting to be made manifest. But when the butcher chops up the animal, he is not particularly concerned with the real structure; he wants to cut up the carcase into joints suitable for domestic purposes. In his activities the butcher ruthlessly cleaves across the real structure laid bare so patiently by the anatomist. The anatomist finds his structure, the butcher makes his. The one pursuit is of the real, that of which, we may say, God is the fashioner or creator. In the other case man himself is the fashioner or creator, or rather the re-creator. Man becomes, in a minor way, his own god. To this extent Protagoras was right when he said ‘Man is the measure of all things’. It is certainly true that man is the measure of some things, even though not of all. ….
Despite expectations, the ‘liberating’ doctrine of Protagoras becomes “a paralysis of the worst kind” according to Ardley:
Speaking in general, the physis is that which is ordained by God; the nomos is that which is ordained by man. Plato takes up this theme in his last work, The Laws. Plato, as the end draws near, put less trust than ever in man, and more in the hand of God. He writes:
God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not man, as men commonly say (Protagoras): the words are far more true of Him. And he who would be dear to God must, as far as is possible, be like Him and such as He is. [Laws, 716]
Protagoras, with his doctrine that language, morals, customs, laws, have no divine sanction, but are man-made, is the antithesis to Plato, and provides the Magna Carta of ‘humanism’. In fact, the whole ‘humanist’ movement may be said to rest on Protagoras. It shares his strength and his weakness. ‘The philosophy of man began only with Protagoras’ says a contemporary author, Popper. [The Open Society and its Enemies (London, 1945), v. i, p. 166]. He regards Protagoras as the theorist of what he calls the ‘Open Society’ while Plato is the theorist of the ‘Closed Society’. The Open Society is one, so Popper claims, which sets free the critical powers of man, while the Closed Society is an arrested society in which unity is maintained by an unquestioning and irrational appeal to supernatural forces and tribal taboos.
However, as we have just pointed out, the ulimate result of a doctrine like that of Protagoras, that everything is nomos, far being a liberation, is a paralysis of the worst kind. For if everything is convention then we cannot make the appeal to what ‘really is the case’ which is the basis of all rational social change. This is the fallacy of any merely humanitarian scheme.
Only when we can have recourse to a physis, something to appeal to beyond convention, can society be really alive and growing. ‘Only the permanent can change’ is a verbal paradox, but nevertheless profoundly true. ….