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Why is it more rational to believe the universe created itself than to believe God created the universe?

June 13, 2014

061314 Radical atheists love to ridicule believers. They mock our “talking snake” in Genesis but really show their own lack of sophistication in understanding the nature of allegory or symbol in human language. But since I do understand allegory I will let them off the hook when it comes to their own “God particle” and the language of “blind evolution” (as if a process could have eyes and see or not see).” For unlike some (not all) of them, I attended high school grammar class and understand the nature of allegory, symbol, hyperbole, and metaphor when it comes to human parlance.

But I do have this question: “Why is it more rational to believe the universe created itself than to believe God created the universe?”

To quote my own brother, George, who is a smart fellow, “I’ve always been puzzled why most atheists seem hostile to religion. I guess I would expect more an attitude of condescension or superiority because they’re ‘not so stupid as to believe in God.’ And yet they usually feel threatened by religion which usually provides a civilizing aspect they should appreciate.” Well said, Brother George. Religion has its place in human culture, whether nonbelievers like to admit it or not. It is true that religion has not been without its sins (after all, human beings are involved), but so has atheist materialism had its sins and bloodbaths (e.g., Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and others who had “unpleasant” materialist escapades).

Can we agree that sin is the universal condition of fallen humanity and move beyond silly “blame game” when in fact we are all responsible?

Back to the question: “Why is it more rational to believe the universe created itself than to believe God created the universe?” Am I not being asked to ascribe to dumb luck a world that shows forth multivariate, multilevel, and intricate order? Am I not being asked to “believe” that a tornado or some other chance event just happened to tear through the “junk yard” of the world’s elements and produced a fully functioning (at every level all at once) universe with all its moving parts? Why is this more “rational” than to believe that an intelligence (we call “God”) deliberately ordered all this matter? Why is it more rational to believe the universe created itself than to believe God created the universe?

I would ask for concise responses from any atheists who choose to answer. I realize that science cannot “prove God” using its physical tools. Fine. But why must materialists refute God, a position that cannot be verified using the scientific method? Again the question: “Why is it more rational to believe the universe created itself than to believe God created the universe?”

Remember, the key word is “rational,” a word of which atheists do not have full ownership. Stephen Colbert humorously notes that atheists, too, can have rather irrational reactions to religion in this world. To our atheist interlocutors I pose just this one question: “Why is this more ‘rational’ than to believe that an intelligence (we call “God”) purposefully ordered all this matter?”

Here is a funny video by Colbert showing that irrationality is not the exclusive province of “believers.”

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Steve Colbert responds to atheists | June 14, 2014
  2. Pastoral Sharings: "Body & Blood of Christ" | St. John | June 21, 2014
  1. Mary B says:

    Very, very well written article. Thank you.

    I just can’t resist pointing out that I think you mean “rational” rather than rationale. “Why is it more rational,” rather than “Why is it more rationale.” I know that may seem picky, but … well, I have no “but” but I thought it merited pointing out.

  2. edraCRUZ says:

    If these atheist really has the ‘good sense’ of believing that there is no GOD, they would simply just keep it to themselves and let the believers do their thing and the believers will just dissolve, dissipate and totally annihilate themselves. The only problem is that the atheists cannot reconcile the situation that 4,000 years has come and gone since the allegorical story of creation of heaven and earth and still believers believe in GOD, and of that 4,000 years, 2,000 years of which Christians still believe in JESUS CHRIST. JESUS CHRIST bequeath HIS ministry to lowly 12 fishermen whose church grew to at present 2 billion believers and counting. Atheists, you better straighten up your act or you yourselves will be totally annihilated by yourselves for you know there is a great power behind all these. If you believe that the universe created itself, why on earth cannot a car create or even just repair itself, or a house or an appliance or a bike or a watch, all of which are matters? Sorry for offending your sensibilities. Nevertheless, GOD Bless you all.

    • Brenda says:

      And then please keep your options to yourself, this article is helpful for my RELIGION assignment.. All I hear is you preachers all over the street and forcing it down our throats since young at school so we are allowed to have options and share them. So please if you don’t want to see it don’t google it.

  3. chrisb says:

    Msgr: Unfortunately, I have noticed that some younger adults want to disregard religion itself for all the wars and suffering it has caused, they also refer to the “universe” as we might refer to God.”Ask the universe to send positive energy….” Quite different; I am so frustrated by this. It’s a cop out. The “universe” seems to be a false god instead of a wonder created by God. So saddened by this as it has touched my own family. (loved Colbert…)

    • Benindin says:

      Just remind them that atheistic communism killed over 100 millon people. Christopher Hitchens, quite laughably, claimed that, well this was not atheism, communism became a religion as soon as it starts killing lots of people. I cannot imagine a less intellectually honest response.
      And remind them that the atheists took over the French revolution and 300,000 died, many having their heads cut off.

      Only propaganda tries to take a very large idea, such as “religion” and blame it for all mankinds ills. After all they usually only come up with a handful of examples from 500 years ago. Galileo, etc. They cherry pick their way through 2 thousand years of history and select a few instances.

      Ask them if the people in prison are primarily Christians. No doubt, the peopel in prison are among those who go to church and read the bible the least.

      Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offered the following explanation:
      “ Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’
      Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’

      Younger people today have been successfully propagandized by a few atheists who use the same propaganda techniques the left has always used.

  4. chrisb says:

    Msgr: Unfortunately, I have noticed that some younger adults want to disregard religion itself for all the wars and suffering it has caused, they also refer to the “universe” as we might refer to God.”Ask the universe to send positive energy….” Quite different; I am so frustrated by this. It’s a cop out. The “universe” seems to be a false god instead of a wonder created by God. So saddened by this as it has touched my own family. (loved Colbert…)

  5. chrisb says:

    Msgr: Unfortunately, I have noticed that some younger adults want to disregard religion itself for all the wars and suffering it has caused, they also refer to the “universe” as we might refer to God.”Ask the universe to send positive energy….” Quite different; I am so frustrated by this. It’s a cop out. The “universe” seems to be a false god instead of a wonder created by God. So saddened by this as it has touched my own family. (loved Colbert…)

    • Proteios1 says:

      I hear that too. The problem is that it is incorrect. Or at the very least outdated and incomplete. Like the cult atheism is clearly becoming, it needs validation beyond science. Not the science we scientists perform, but this illusion of science they purport to rely on. The scientism perhaps. Back to the point, atheistic communism has killed more in the past century than Christians have in the past two millenia. Atheists impose plenty of suffering through the same channels as Christians. Selfishness, greed, ignoring suffering. That seems pretty universal although they seem to have attached that to everyone but themselves.
      No, the suffering angle is interesting from an atheist as they all of a sudden cease redefining God as a ‘sky fairy’ or other anti-intellectual mockery, and all of a sudden adopt a sincere critique. Wrong as it is, the moving target of the atheist argument is consistent with their entrenchment in relativism.
      Either way, if someone think through it and doesnt use suffering as a mere excuse – it holds about as much water as most atheist justifications….not much!

  6. Damon says:

    Very important questions to ask ourselves indeed.

    But do you really think all believers embrace the allegory and the symbolism and not the literal , immutable Word?

    Atheists, agnostics and anti-theists seize on the young Earth crowd and the hirsute old man in the clouds taught in Sunday school as evidence of a trivial philosophy.

    Faith is a multi layered thing which can be comprehended as complex abstractions for intellectuals or down to simplistic cliche for the young and naive. But do you really think we make this case well to non believers? Do you really think the Church makes this clear at all?

    You ask…’ Can we agree that sin is the universal condition of fallen humanity…’

    No! Wow. Non believers don’t believe they did anything wrong, and rationally cling to causality.

    To communicate with non believers coherently we have to first agree on our interpretation (good luck) and then we must not make the assumption that they agree with us on any principles!

    It’s a tall order!

  7. Grant says:

    A rational mind does not assume magic is at play when the answers aren’t readily apparent.

    • Benindin says:

      At the same time, a rational mind does not assume that others think magic is at play when answers aren’t readily apparent.

    • Scaevola says:

      The good Monsignor fully agrees with you, though your point seems irrelevant.

    • Tom D says:

      You are right. Also, when a rational answer is readily available, a rational mind does not assume we don’t have an answer….

      Nor does a rational mind assume that there is an answer waiting out there to be discovered one day by tools which simply cannot do the trick (i.e. rational minds do not assume science can explain what it presuposes to function).

      Finally, if anyone is going to be accused of postulating “magic” let me say this:
      1- There is the view that this completely intelligible universe which cannot in principle explain its own existence (what it is does not entail that it exists hence why it exists must be an explanation beyond its own nature) is the result of an infinitely rational and self-existing mind

      Or

      2- The universe just does exist, no explanation and the order is there, no explanation. It just is and we can postulate that science has the answer because that makes us sound smart….even if we haven’t thought through the implications of how science could even in principle answer philosophical questions about the nature and existence of the universe. “Self-Creation” sounds radical and since some eminent physicists have said it “scientific.” Then let’s accuse those who disagree of “magic.”

      Tom

      • TeaPot562 says:

        If one examines the “Big Bang Theory”, one has to ask “Why should an extremely large mass at a very high temperature (Fifty million degrees Celsius or so) have suddenly come into existence at a single point circa thirteen billion years ago, and then exploded?”
        The atheists have no explanation, although Steven Hawking has tried to think of one.
        Judeo-Christians agree on “And then God said, ‘Let there be light! And there was light.’ ”
        TeaPot562

        • Tom D says:

          It should be noted however- even if someone comes up with a mechanism for how the big bang happened/began etc. what they have discovered is a physical mechanism- which is simply one more contingent thing in need of an explanation.

  8. Shan Gill says:

    Quite right – science has no logical nor rational explanation for the existence of either the universe or life. The most troubling aspect of such nonsensical thinking is when it becomes writ in law, as it was in Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. in Pennsylvania. In that case, as most of you would be aware, the school district had decided to have read in biology classes teaching evolution that a statement would be read wherein it would be noted that there are problems with the various theories of evolution, and that counter-theories existed, including intelligent design. A handful of atheists filed suit. The judge, John E. Jones III, wrote an opinion that denied intelligent design as having any scientific standing. It was the day reason died, and science lost its mind.

    • Neville says:

      It amazes me how those who regard ‘intelligent design’ as science. Science id limited to attempting to explain the ‘Laws’ of nature, (physics, biology etc) and has little to do with faith in God (Except for believers who can marvel at the complexity of his creation). Proposing ‘intelligent design’ to be science is revealing a real lack of belief, faith and trust in God for as his creation we cannot possibly have full knowledge of him.

      The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (Paul, 1 Corinthians, 1:25)

  9. Linus2nd says:

    Very good question. I have atheists admit that their atheism is a faith. Because, of course, they cannot either prove that the universe ( or multiverses ) created itself, nor that God did not do it, nor that there is no God. Therefore their ” conviction ” that the universe is accountable for its own existence, order, and teleology is a pure act of faith, based on nothing more than a repugnance fo religion, indoctrination, upbringing, cultural milieu, etc.

    Are you aware that the Copernican heliocentric theory of the universe, which began the scientific revolution, is facing a serious challenge today? It seems as though the latest scientific information points to a geocentric order of the universe after all. Apologies anyone?

    • Tom D says:

      I’d like to point out that the geocentric order in the universe is actually not turning out to be true…I don’t know where that idea comes from.
      In fact, it is not even clear that the universe has a finite volume. It depends on a number of factors which right now are unkown. Well obviously if the universe has infinite volume, there is no geometric center.

      Besides, I think it is not a good idea to be advertising that view as if it were something more Catholic or something for a number of reasons. First off, that is not really correct as the geocentric view originated with Greek astronomers rather than with the Church. Second, it implies that somehow conceding a non-geocentric universe concendes something against the faith. Third, it appears anti-scientific to a degree with is absolutely not something we want in today’s world for the Church. I could list more reasons but I think the point is clear.

      Tom D

  10. grannymh says:

    Of course it is more rational to believe that the universe created itself. What we see is what we get.

    Most of us are familiar with the Inductive (scientific) method of reasoning. Here, nature becomes the authority.

    Corn grows in the fields. It grows from seeds which apparently disappear after their use. The kernels disappear into our digestive system increasing our mental and athletic capabilities – according to the tales we heard when we, as children, objected to vegetables. Nature tells us that corn exists because its source (seeds) demonstrates “multivariate, multilevel, and intricate order.” We can view our universe in a similar way. Its multivariate, multilevel, and intricate order can be attributed to real material seeds which have simply become some part of our physical universe in the same way that corn seeds eventually produce cobs as the physical base for corn.

    Interestingly. One of Google’s definitions for kernel is “one of the yellow seeds that cover an ear of corn.” This demonstrates that an outside “force” is not needed for a continual supply of corn or for the universe to continue its existence.

    • bobster says:

      Ah my friend, but did corn bring itself into existence? That is different than perpetuating itself.
      Perpetuation is a different question than origin.

      • grannymh says:

        You are correct my friend. Perpetuation is a different question than origin and it intersects with another Catholic “creation” teaching which I do not recall as being in the original article. Yet, if we are exploring what caused the universe, we might find a related question as to what keeps it “afloat.”

        As for corn bringing itself into existence, I am only following the article’s criteria in these sentences.

        “Am I not being asked to ascribe to dumb luck a world that shows forth multivariate, multilevel, and intricate order? Am I not being asked to “believe” that a tornado or some other chance event just happened to tear through the “junk yard” of the world’s elements and produced a fully functioning (at every level all at once) universe with all its moving parts?”

        My position is that the criteria “multivariate, multilevel, and intricate order” appears in the allegorical use of the corn plant. That being the case, I applied it on the larger scale of the universe. Msgr. Pope, please correct me concerning my use of allegory. My high school grammar class was in the period following the Age of Dinosaurs. (LOL)

        In addition, I do not ascribe to the idea of a chance event or that the “seed” for the universe produced a fully functioning (at every level all at once) universe with all its moving parts. The corn plant starts out very small like a weed. With sun and rain, the corn plant grows as high as an elephant’s eye. Genesis 1: 3-26 demonstrates a reasonable progression from inanimate matter to the human species. I chose to omit Genesis 1: 1-2.

        Ah, one says, the mystery of creation needs a material base as its origin.

    • Procrastitron says:

      See the problem with this granny is that there are several distinctions being made. Msgr. pointed out that the idea that the universe created itself is not at all rational. You point to an example showing (essentially) that the universe is like a corn kernel, growing into corn, existing in different forms. Essentially your reply is that the universe always existed, not that it created itself.

      On one level we would have to ask then, what do you mean by universe? What do you mean by corn? If corn is the full grown plant and does not refer to the organism itself, then the corn came from a seed. If we are talking about the organism, even it has a beginning (for at one time it was not it’s own organism), so the corn would not have created itself anyway. Thus your analogy and the way you point to the universe are not adequate.

      Now if the universe is the physical world, we know that it didn’t always exist (at least the latest research says as much). Now if by the universe you mean everything in existence, then it always did exist (even a theist would say that God always existed, and in fact is the ground for existence itself, and hence existence always existed).

      But if you mean the physical world always existed without appeal to a non-contingent cause, then you run into a problem. Firstly, if the universe can grow and change and transform (an ever changing universe with only contingent causes), then said momentum itself must be non-contingent, and therefore there is still a non-contingent cause. But then either not everything is contingent (and so there has to be a first cause) or that momentum is contingent, but then it would have to have a non-contingent cause outside of itself (since momentum marks that contingency, it must be something that can move itself, an unmoved mover). Either way, a non-contingent cause must exist. Natural philosophy calls this God.

      As to why God can’t be momentum, there is another problem with that. Firstly if everything always moved, then everything was always here, and therefore everything was always God (you can see the moral problem with dictators saying they are gods here, since they would be right). But we know there is contingency, and if there was always contingency then we know matter was not always here, so if there was nothing to move in the beginning, then there would have been no momentum.

      • grannymh says:

        Regarding 1st paragraph. One distinction is that I see a material source for the universe. It would be the material source, not necessarily the whole universe, which could have always existed. It appears that science sees living organisms in the universe as evolving in some way. While I can see the corn seed as evolving into an ear of corn, and I can see the corn plant itself evolving from pre-historic plants, I do have a problem with inanimate matter.

        Regarding 2nd paragraph. My apology. I am used to using living organisms in the biological sense; thus, I am not sure how to approach (for at one time it was not its own organism). I do refer to “corn” as the full grown plant which was produced by the seed. I will include “universe” with the comments for the following paragraph.

        Regarding 3rd paragraph. In my humble opinion, in a discussion, both sides should be learning something from the other side. I have learned that when we talk about the universe – meaning everything in existence, we need to include items which are inherently immaterial, aka spiritual or super-natural, such as love or goodness. We can feel the effects of love so we know it exists. We can give our love to others. But we cannot touch love or goodness per se in the same way we can touch items made of matter which occupy space and time. Now, a theist could include God as a non-material transcendent pure spiritual being without the restrictions or limitations of a material world. But that description cannot be applied to our dogs and cats which are material beings and as such they came into existence by birth and eventually will cease to exist.

        Regarding 4th and 5th paragraphs. Again, my apology for not addressing these thoughts in the same terms. What I believe you are saying is that God is an objective reality, an universal objective truth. By objective, it is meant that God exists independently. He existed before we were born and He exists after we die. God does not depend on anyone’s definition. Being independent, God would be considered non-material because the material world cannot limit Him, that is, make God dependent on the material/physical universe. This may look like circular reasoning; however, I view it as the Deductive Method of Reasoning which begins with accepted axioms …

        At this point, I am not sure how all this affects the creation of the universe. Using Ockham’s razor, it seems simpler to simply say that there was a material source (like a seed) which developed into today’s living material organisms. As long as I am using materialism as a foundation, it may be possible that originally multiple material sources existed.

        What say you?

        • Procrastitron says:

          Maybe there was a miscommunication somewhere.

          Regarding your first and last paragraph, I would say that you are misinformed about where current cosmology lies, as well as how to apply Ockham’s razor. The universe is not known to have a material cause (or more simply, a physical cause) since all things material came into existence with the universe as far as mainstream cosmology is concerned. Not just material things, but the space they exist in, and time itself, came into existence at the beginning. So we cannot say that anything physical existed before this (this goes back to the big bang, theorized in great degree by a…surprise surprise…Catholic priest), and if you do it’s mere belief. As to the application of the Razor, it merely seeks to simplify things to what is necessary. The creation of the universe can be easily simplified as coming from a immaterial source, since we only know of material things as within the universe, not outside of it (and indeed we cannot detect anything outside of the universe, not due to lack of technology but due to logical limitation). Not only that, but when you say the universe has a material source what you do is create more problems, like if that is true, then why is entropy growing? Where did that material source come from if there was no space for that material to exist in? In fact, the universe having a material source means that space and time must have always existed (not something many cosmologists are willing to concede). How this source was able to generate enough energy to create the universe (as this is limited)? Why so much of that energy is now gone? What caused it to change from what it was then to what it is now? An immaterial, necessary being or agent is not subject to these questions, and so is simpler.

          Regarding my fourth paragraph, it can be summed up as thus:

          1. If the universe always existed, but everything remains contingent (not necessary, not self explaining) and therefore is not itself god (in terms of Natural Philosophy). Hence pantheism is avoided.

          2. If everything is contingent, then principle (or effect, or law if you will) “that everything is contingent” must itself be non-contingent (necessary, self explaining).

          3. If this is the case, then it would mean that indeed, not everything is contingent. To explain the non-contingent necessity of “that everything is contingent” it itself must have a non-contingent source.

          So in the end, you can’t have a universe that always existed without it being god. If you would like to say it existed in different forms, that’s fine, but the primordial matter or the grounds upon which it exist (physical or not) must have always existed, and thus be necessary, and thus be god (again, using the definition from natural philosophy). But then you run into the questions I already mentioned. Simply put, an immaterial God is just a simpler answer.

          My first paragraph was just pointing out that the analogy of the corn kernel is not adequate because it is relative. The whole of the plant is contained in the seed, and so the seed is itself that “corn”, only younger. The word ‘universe’ is not a term or category for the current state of the physical world (at least no one uses it as such) but points to all physical existence, from the way things are to what they are made of and the laws that govern them. So in terms of the corn kernel, seeing the seed as itself “corn” is more adequate, but then we see that even that seed has a beginning, an outside source. But we know that that source is physical. We do not know that it is so with the universe. In fact, physicality itself must have a beginning, and if it does it cannot come from and older physicality, but something non-physical.

          As for you materialism, I have a question. If you believe that love is non-physical, or goodness, then how can you be saying you are using materialism as a foundation? You contradict yourself. If you are more hardline, then tell me, if only things that are physical can be known to exist, then I ask, how do you know that the principle “only physical things can be known to exist, or DO exist” is true? It itself is not physical, written on a rock in space somewhere. It is mere belief, and since it is so, then you cannot call yourself a materialist can you? Or at least, it is not your foundation, or if so then it is a flimsy one. If you think about it then, one could say that materialism is illogical, in as much as it cannot be held without contradiction, making the person who holds it have to contradict themselves.

          • grannymh says:

            Thank you for continuing the discussion. Some of which needs a brain fully awake, so I will start with some simple replies.

            Regarding the “Razor”, your comment is correct but incomplete when we have to deal with the current emphasis on natural science being the authority for truth. Comment was: “As to the application of the Razor, it merely seeks to simplify things to what is necessary.” When it comes to scientific research, the first principle is to observe nature without prejudice. One gathers anything and everything. Granted that one seeks what is necessary, but the important thing is that one has to actively choose (perhaps by experiment, perhaps by available data, perhaps by assumptions) the best explanation for the natural event or item one is researching. The foundation, so to speak, of science is to examine all conditions and then determine which necessary conditions will lead to a power-filled theory. A proposed theory or individual parts of a proposed theory can be used as a foundation for the hypothesis of a research paper. The research paper has to provide compelling evidence to support the conclusion. Ockham’s razor requires work. One quick note about the “conclusion”. It must be warranted by the presented evidence. Think about the discovery of black swans in Australia. Real swans, not the wine.

            I did smile at your opening sentence. “Maybe there was a miscommunication somewhere.” The real miscommunication is too often Catholics assume that their position is the correct one without adequately understanding the scientific method itself. For example. There are some excellent comments about a rational mind which need expanding in regard to the scientific method Another example is your last paragraph and your question “How do you know that the principle “only physical things can be known to exist, or DO exist” is true?” Looking at the scientific method, that should have been followed by the concept that scientific research, at best, gives probable explanations. Probable does not automatically rule out all possibilities. A current probable explanation for the many rational skills in human beings is that these “talents” are an epiphenomenon. St. John Paul II, immediately pointed out the error of that explanation.

            In truth, natural science is a gift from God which has benefited humanity in many ways, especially in the medical arena. When considering a decomposing material anatomy, “probable” often works.

            Too often, it is only the inanimate matter in the universe which is considered when it comes to determining source or origin. Thus, I can propose that material begets the material. We do have to consider the inanimate matter because it is intelligible. However, we cannot dismiss natural science because by definition it cannot physically examine the immaterial example of love per se. Still, love per se is intelligible.

            Msgr. Pope is on target when he said: Remember, the key word is “rational,”

            I do try to keep an open mind in discussions like this. It could be possible that I am wrong. Yikes! However, when the scientific method is set aside because it cannot prove God or it cannot deal with the extremely unique non-material animating principle specifically found in the human species, aka spiritual soul in the image of the Maker – I am on secure materialism ground.

            My apology. I will have to continue my reply much later due to some commitments for today. Nonetheless, I am very interested in your reactions to this beginning.

            Thank you.

          • grannymh says:

            Procrastitron, your question is important in the light of the current evolution model.

            “If you believe that love is non-physical, or goodness, then how can you be saying you are using materialism as a foundation? You contradict yourself.”

            My answer. I can use materialism as a foundation because the concept that human nature is solely matter or material is part of 21st century Science of Human Evolution. Recall that the proper realm of natural science is the material/physical world.

            In 1950, Pius XII recognized that scientific pursuits regarding the origin and nature of humankind were intersecting with the Catholic faith. It was obvious that the scientific consensus that new species developed as populations (polygenesis) would be a direct hit on the Catholic doctrine of human monogenism which is that the human species developed from two sole real fully-complete human parents. It is not my intention to debate section 37 of Humani generis. Nonetheless, I will point out that section 37 cannot be separated from sections 35 and 36.

            In 1996, St. John Paul II referred to Pius XII. Then the Saint clearly stated that those “theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.” (Section 5, Address of Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 22, 1996).

            In the language of us ordinary folk, the Saint was referring to materialism as being the base for human nature. Consequently, what we think is a spiritual soul actually emerges from our material (living matter) blood and guts, skin and bones as an epiphenomenon. Thus, my belief that love per se and goodness per se are
            non-physical is explained as a feeling or a perception emerging, in some way, from my material anatomy. Experiences such as love and goodness can appear non-physical, but in “reality” they directly come from our material anatomy.

            Therefore, I have not contradicted myself according to today’s evolution proposals.

          • grannymh says:

            My answer to your question — “If you believe that love is non-physical, or goodness, then how can you be saying you are using materialism as a foundation? You contradict yourself.” can be refuted.

            My June 15th reply.
            “I can use materialism as a foundation because the concept that human nature is solely matter or material is part of 21st century Science of Human Evolution. Recall that the proper realm of natural science is the material/physical world.”

            *Snip*

            Ending.
            “Therefore, I have not contradicted myself according to today’s evolution proposals.”

            Please note that I based my answer on 21st century Science of Human Evolution and its proposals. Relying on the evolution model is proper when we are learning about insects and iguanas. Your question pertains to humans.

            Msgr. Pope made a crucial point when he said “I realize that science cannot “prove God” using its physical tools.” The physical tools of the scientist are not the only available tools for us to use. We humans have rational tools which include, but are not limited to, observation, analyzation of what is seen, self-reflection, experimentation, conceptual thinking, deductive reasoning, logical evaluation, hypothesis formation, analytical thought, and productive imagination.

            Granted, we cannot physically observe the rational spiritual soul; but, we can observe its effects. Notice that birds fly by flapping their wings while we fly in a semi-comfortable seat in an airplane. If all creatures evolved as populations from populations (current evolution theory), then our monkey cousins would also have the intellectual capability to fly into outer space. Human rationality is the key for flying possibilities. Rationality is the difference between our peerless species and all others. This difference slices the ropes tying us to the material world. Authoritative material nature can account for highly sentient animals, but not for the accomplishments of humans.

            We begin to understand the intelligibility of our surrounding universe when we use rational tools. Where did this mysterious understanding come from? If some of the “all creatures” do not possess a rational mind? When we demonstrate human rationality, we find it unique to one peerless species. Our anatomy is material, yet, we have these rational tools which are not found in other creatures. How could that happen when all living creatures are from the same material source (evolution’s common ancestors) ?

            If the material universe created itself . . . We would need to insert that “like begets like” which means that we have to find an additional source accountable for our rationality. Even when dramatic genetic changes take place over time, animals still beget animals and not pretty flowers. Obviously, only a powerful Spiritual Being can create a being that is not totally material like rabbits and roses.

            This powerful Spiritual Being has to be an unmoved mover. (Do I have the terminology right?) My own speculation is that an unmoved mover guarantees the integrity of human rationality. The idea of a less than totally powerful non-material Creator holds the possibility of two gods and competing natures. The idea that a creator can beget another creator in infinite regress holds the possibility of more than one perfectly powerful creator. Two Gods is a no-no in Thomism.

            Imagine what would happen if we were made in the image of a committee! That presents a better idea of what evolution means when it refers to humans evolving from unsteady splitting [assumed] populations.

            If one dares refer to the unscientific first three chapters of the book of Genesis, there is the observation that humans are, by nature, distinct from animals. (the shift from Genesis 1: 25 to Genesis 1: 26; and Genesis 2: 18-20) Some persons view the naming of animals in Genesis 2: 20, as a validation of the first human’s rational tools. This astute author of Genesis, chapter 1, provides the perfect creator for the human nature of human beings, (Genesis 1: 1)

            I trust you to take over from here.

          • Procrastitron says:

            Hmmm quite a lot has been said. I hope you will still respond to this. I’m going to sift through what I think is important rather than answer everything.

            Firstly, the universe having a material cause does not make things simpler. If the universe has a material cause, (like a seed causes corn), then every part of the universe is basically part of that mass of material from the beginning. And since that material must exist, then it must be necessary. This seems simple enough till you realize that it means that every part of the universe, made from the “primordial material”, and if that is the case, then every single unit of that material (every single irreducibly small particle or wave) must be necessary. So instead of having a single agent that is self-explaining and non-contingent (i.e. God), you have trillions.of tiny necessary agents. This isn’t simpler, and I’m afraid that if this is the work of Ockham’s Razor, then Ockham is drunk. Not only that, but you cannot claim that some of those small materials are necessary and others are not, since if you have no way of distinguishing what is necessary from what isn’t, you may as well say none of it is.

            Secondly, if the universe has a material cause that is necessary and non-contingent then you run into a second problem. There is no way to observe this, either by science or by experience. This quality cannot be proven nor is self evident, so there remains no right to apply it to the universe.

            Thirdly, if you would like to say that everything has a material cause then you are wrong. Mathematics, though inspired by materials, has no material cause (one plus one equals two regardless if there is one or two of something or anything). And if math has no material cause, then logic doesn’t either. Not only that, but not everything has a material cause. If you know about the “four causes” you will know that in addition to a maker and materials used to make things, there is also the plan required to make something as well as the desired end goal. Without these whatever is made is mere accident. Now though these things may be tied to material, they themselves are not a ‘resource’ used to make something.

            Fourthly you stop short in your conclusions. You say that everything we know of has a material cause, therefore the universe could be said to have one. I say that everything has a cause, therefore material itself has a cause, and that cause cannot be itself. But we get to the crux of the matter here. Plainly speaking current mainstream cosmology just does not agree with you. Its not just that the universe has a cause. Its that everything in it has a cause. All matter and energy, and the space and time they exist in and which is required for them to even be has a beginning. When cosmologists say there was nothing before the universe was made they mean nothing (in terms of physically, which includes any kind of material matter or energy). This is the current model for the beginning of the universe. Even the multiverse theory requires this since all universes would have to be created at once (on top of each other) from one epicenter in one space (since outside of the universe there is not space and time). One can try to say that space and time exist in another form outside the universe but then A, it is impossible (and not just by my opinion, but is a real limitation by science) to know this and B, now you are once again multiplying necessary entities beyond their need as opposed to just one necessary agent (God).

            Plainly, mainstream science just does not agree with you on this, and more each day just affirms what the Church says. The universe was created from nothing (but the Church says that God created it from nothing)

          • grannymh says:

            Glad to see you back.

            Google had wonderful sites on Ockham’s Razor. As I recall, there can be various uses. I will go along with your definition of simpler. We can drink to that.

            As for everything having a material cause, that is an inference based on the scientific (inductive method) observation that everything is material. This does make sense since the material/physical realm belongs to natural science.

            Mathematics starts out with the truth (deductive method) that one plus one equals two. Obviously in real life, there is often a mixture of the two methods.

            As for the “four causes” … I am thinking I ran into those when I was searching hylomorphism sometime back. Going by your third position, because the universe is mathematically intelligible, (please note I had to drop math)that is the evidence for a plan which plan can also be deduced by observing the multivariate, multilevel, and intricate order mentioned by Msgr. Pope. It just occurred to me that using a personal observation to lead to a particular conclusion is one of the rational non-material tools of a human being. You appear to be close to having my head on a platter.

            Your fourth position may conquer the materialism position. Seems to me that material living organisms not only have a beginning, they eventually cease to exist in some manner. We are born with a decomposing anatomy. I may be heading toward the concept that having possibilities of change, there would have to be trillions of tiny necessary agents simply because there are millions of ways individual living organisms can change and do change. That is my understanding of your first paragraph. In order to have an orderly universe, its creator should not be subject to change.

            To think that Ockham’s Razor would trip me!

            Seriously, there seemed to be some minor glitches in your overall presentation. That was on the 1st reading. I need to get down to the nitty-gritty. Unfortunately, due to some travel commitments and appointments, I may be gone for a few days. Please note that this cranky granny does not give up easily. However, if you wish, you can continue to nail me. LOL

            P.S. Where did the idea that the creator agent has to be “self-explaining” come from? And why?

          • grannymh says:

            Procrastitron,

            YOU WON !!!

            I cannot get past Ockham’s Razor!

            The first principle of science is to observe without prejudice. Like William of Ockham, you had me
            re-examining my corn field. It is physically obvious that each corn plant had an individual seed or agent; therefore, your fine example of “trillions of tiny necessary agents” (June 18, 2014, comment) was verified by my observation of the corn field. This observation can be properly extrapolated to various elements in the universe. Because like begets like, once the original agents were set in motion, corn would continue to beget corn.

            I am not sure I would accept your explanation of mainstream cosmology. Nonetheless, I would have to agree that the universe as a whole is made up of “tiny necessary agents.” Every time I try to picture tiny agents, I giggle.

            Introducing mathematics kept us on the scientific turf which is a good thing. It is my understanding that mathematics is what makes the universe intelligible. In your June 18, 2014, comment, you pointed out — “Mathematics, though inspired by materials, has no material cause (one plus one equals two regardless if there is one or two of something or anything).” I had to drop math, so I cannot get close to your level. To compensate, I concentrate on the intelligibility aspects of our amazing universe, including its human inhabitants.

            At this point, we need to take another look at your opening comment , June 14, 2014 — “See the problem with this granny is that there are several distinctions being made.” Consequently, Ockham’s Razor (parsimony) had me looking for the simplest distinction. I love the night, but when looking up, I see stars not mathematical information. Apparently, mathematics is a non-material tool.

            Thus, there is only one simple distinction in the universe. It is the distinction between the material something and the non-material something known as human’s rational intellect. It is the distinction between the natural material world and the spiritual world. By the way, spiritual concepts have been expressed in many forms since the beginning of human history. There are the ancient myths and the ancient gods; the shamans and the mystics; plus rituals ranging from the innocuous to the violent. The point is not to prove the existence of the One True God; rather, the point is to demonstrate that humans, from day one, have recognized the existence of the spiritual, that is, the non-material.

            When the corn becomes immaterial, it ceases existence. When the corn cob rots in the garbage, its purpose to provide nourishment ceases. Those “trillions of tiny necessary agents” only have the power to cause a specific natural material result within the complexity of the universe. The kernel of corn does not become an opera singer.

            To me, mathematics being inspired by materials, indicates that at various times, there is a relationship between the spiritual and material. Love needs an object which means there is an unique relationship between lover and beloved. The love relationship itself is not the same as the relationship of mathematics to the universe. Goodness does not produce rain even though rain is good.

            From here, it should be a hop, skip, and a jump to the realization that the spiritual, non-material, rational intellective skills of the peerless human species have a far different function from corn and stars at night. Granted that humans have a material anatomy; but, if material blood and guts, skin and bones, were capable of producing the rational intellect, then it is a good chance that our monkey cousins would have beaten us to the moon or at least they would have invented the internet quicker.

            In your June 18, 2014, comment, you said: “So instead of having a single agent that is self-explaining and non-contingent (i.e. God), you have trillions of tiny necessary agents. This isn’t simpler, and I’m afraid that if this is the work of Ockham’s Razor, then Ockham is drunk.” On June 19, 2014, I replied: “ I will go along with your definition of simpler. We can drink to that.”

            I agree that a single agent is simpler; but I would posit that the single agent has to be outside of the universe. Both the spiritual aspects and the material aspects within the universe are limited in some way. Because of the sheer complexity of the universe and the unique human nature, the single agent has to be unlimited per se, in order to cause two widely divergent elements. I believe the principle of non-contradiction can be applied to an agent being unlimited outside the universe while at the same time being a limited element within the universe itself.

            Another example of possible non-contradiction (which may or may not be proper) is that the distinction between the spiritual and material elements of the universe is so divergent that they cannot originate each other. Humans can transform already existing material elements from one thing to another thing. However, humans do not have the power needed for originating material elements into existence.

            It is not rational to believe that the universe created itself when its limited material and spiritual elements cannot originate each other. Only a single unlimited outside agent, capable of causing both the original limited material and spiritual elements, which are clearly observed within the universe, would be able to create our universe.

            Therefore, the universe cannot rationally create itself.

  11. Benindin says:

    Stalin was said to have said that a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.

    Atheists seem to follow this rule – for they go on and on about Giordano Bruno, for example and yet they have the blinders on when it comes to the 100 million that Communism (which atheism was central to) killed, or the 40,000 that died when the atheists took over the French revolution.

    We only have to go back 30 or 40 years to find real, substantial horrors (Gulags, slave labor, due to atheism.They have to go back 500 years to find one guy burned at the stake. And then they get it wrong and say he was burned at the stake for his scientific ideas, when he was not.

  12. Benindin says:

    To answer your question, although I am not an atheist:

    ““Why is it more rational to believe the universe created itself than to believe God created the universe?”

    I believe an honest atheist would answer this way:

    “We don’t necessarily believe that the universe “created itself”. We simply DO NOT KNOW what in fact created it. But we have no evidence whatsoever that God created it. Therefore, it is appropriate to withhold any conclusion as to how it was created.

    You (Monsignor Pope) propose that we believe that God created it. We propose that we withhold judgment, since there is no evidence that God created it. Your explanation is simply “that which is unexplained must have been due to God.” (the god of the gaps). Our position is that someday we will find out what created it, and only then will it be possible to say anything.”

    Any other atheist answer is untenable, i believe.

    • Sue Korlan says:

      No, I don’t think Msgr. Pope is positing a God of the gaps. He is positing a God who uses things like evolution to bring about order in the universe. The more that science shows the world to be orderly, the more likely it seems that there is a mind behind that order. So it’s not a God of the gaps, where we don’t know what the logic and order of the universe are, but rather a God of the non-gaps. Science shows us how He works.

      But thinking that such an orderly universe comes from random chance is like thinking that putting a monkey in front of a computer keyword is going to result in a great novel. Not likely, to my way of thinking.

    • TrevorP says:

      Msgr’s quote from his brother speaks to your point too. If an atheist simply withholds his conclusion, that may cause him to be condescending to the religious, but it would (should?) not cause hostility.

  13. Andrew B says:

    I find that an easy way to make sense of the atheist notion of “random chance” is to replace those words with the word “Alakazam!” It means the same thing–when I don’t have a good answer…Alakazam! How did “chance”, which has has no creative power, “create” anything? Uh, well, it took a lot of time (which has no creative power), and together they…uh…Alakazam! See, something out of nothing!

    Alakazam is not merely godlike, it is superior to God in one crucial way–God must exist for Him to create anything. Alakazam does not.

  14. jessej says:

    I have never thought the idea of consciences, matter and energy all being there at the beginning all that far fetched.
    To me there is just this question, did matter gave rise conscience or conscience give rise to matter. There doesn’t seem to be a third option
    I think quantum experiments and common sense suggest the latter; but I’m no expert. Just a guy on a couch 🙂

  15. Bender says:

    In other words, it’s turtles all the way down?

    • Bender says:

      That’s a reply to granny’s corny explanation by the way.

      • grannymh says:

        LOL. Granny does love a bit of humor, especially when it plants a pun.

        The left foot of the final turtle could be resting on a physical/material seed which someday would produce a golden food which is a bit of heaven rolled in butter.

  16. Ron Conte says:

    The currently-accepted scientific theory on the origin of the Universe is the Big Bang theory, which was originally proposed by Msgr. Georges Lemaître, a Roman Catholic priest and scientist (b. 1894; d. 1966). He called the moment of creation “a day without yesterday.” God created the universe, and His act of creation began then and there.

  17. Brwno says:

    I usually love your sermons, Msgr. but this Colbert guy said it better this time.

  18. JohnR says:

    Your video has a caption which tells me that I cannot watch it because of the location in which I live and that I should give up my vegemite and move to America in order to be able to see it. I think that I prefer to stay where I am and I do not feel in any way deprived in being unable to watch it. In that sense, I suppose, I understand rationality. Taking this a bit further, the producers of DVDs have divided the world up into regions so that if I go and buy a DVD from England it will not play on my machine because the producers of the DVD players want me to buy my DVDs only from the country in which I live and by preventing me from playing them from overseas, they corner the market and determine the price in my area of the world. Don’t tell them though, if you look carefully on the Internet you can find instructions for over-riding this blocking mechanism and I found it easy to do!!!!

  19. C Beltz says:

    Why is it more rational to believe God created the universe? Oh, gee, well, there is a little know book out there that predates all scientific theory. A book written without the knowledge of men like Copernicus, Darwin, or Galileo. This obscure reference manual somehow mirrors all scientific theory of the origins of our universe, and has yet to be credibly invalidated in over 4,000 years (because it’s true!).

    The thing about wanting proof of God or His existence, well, aside from all the proof that already exists, is that He could come down here right now, stand in front of you and shake your hand with the words “I am” and you still wouldn’t believe unless He had called you to.

    It’s just like the moon landing, people. How could a televised event that nearly everyone saw, have such a large throng of people who believe it was faked? If we could fake something so perfectly in the 1960’s, then explain Plan 9 from Outer Space. People will not believe until they throw away their pride and say yes to God.

  20. Thomas says:

    “If it is not observable or quantifiable, it cannot be rational for the atheist to believe. You can only believe in that which science can explain.” Thus, says the free-thinker who calls himself an atheist.

    But, if I may submit to the atheist:

    The person who contemplates the unseen reality, who probes the mystery of the supernatural–he is the true free thinker.

  21. Peter Wolczuk says:

    This, in general, especially your brother’s comment, in particular, has, for a few years now, always led me consider 2 Peter 2:10-12 which always reminds me of Acts 2:12&13. Sort of like, “I don’t understand it therefore it can’t be so” “Ah, your drunk or on some kind of drugs”
    A dominance of those who fear getting enough information to draw a proper conclusion to a search for knowledge. Sometimes called “tyranny of the masses” which I observed being passed of as, the much superior (in a truly educated society), but finite democracy. A councelor once told me that the, more scientific and therefore more definable, term is “pathology of the common”.
    My usage of technical terminology is limited but, my research has indicated that a pathology is (possibly) a symptom which can make an ill person sicker. Like a mild fever is a symptom but a severe fever would be more a pathology (or maybe pathological symptom) since it can kill all on its own without necessarily adding to the damage caused to the body by the original illness.
    Those who so freely claim a “scientific” basis often throw around theories; which have proved workable for the moment(s) of their usage; but that lack a final conclusion. A true follower of science will endorse the use of theories (if they work for now) while also acknowledging the need for greater data – and the proper arranging of this data when it comes – toward the forming of a better theory when the further data comes.
    It’s like the, so called, atheists head toward accusing us of persecuting them for giving into their fear of finishing the job of building something that works for now (current theories and the application of these theories) but which needs improvement. The jitneys of the late 18th Century and the early 20th Century were nowhere near as funtional as the vehicles of today. This includes much more efficiency in getting a certain amount of energy from a measure of fuel.
    “If it works don’t fix it” when applied to someone’s efforts to improve may upset me, and even cause revulsion in me in the way that a poisoned wound may cause revulsion in me but, neither leads me to see the unfortunate who suffers as being less worthy; although St. Peter does point to a harsh perspective of seeming rejection of their human grace of intelligence above the beasts in the above quote.
    Then, how many who are allegedly driven by atheism are truly atheists? Couldn’t it be that many are believers in the Christian belief system but, seek to oppose in in such deceitful ways, because they follow the enemy of Christianity? Twisted words are likely to fit nicely in twisted minds.

  22. X Contra says:

    Msgr. Pope, that is a good question for any man, atheist or not, to consider.

    I like to put a similar question: “Is it reasonable to expect that laws of Nature should exist?” I think I first read that question in a book by Fr. Stanley Jaki, 25 years ago.

  23. Richard Connell says:

    I propose a flip side to the coin of your question: young earth creationism. People are aware of the trouble yecs (young earth creationists) have in explaining dinosaur bones and carbon dating (recall that Pope Emeritus Benedict used carbon dating to confirm the age of St. Paul’s bones). Most people aren’t aware, even yecs themselves, that they have a problem with the speed of light. If young earth creationism is true, then every observed star and galaxy is within 6,000 light years of the earth because the light of any star or galaxy further than 6,000 light years hasn’t had enough time to reach the earth.

    Astronomers estimate the diameter of the Milky Way Galaxy to be about 100,000 light years. Yecs are compelled to dispute this as well as the distance of our nearest galaxy and all the rest of them down to the one furthest away. Astronomers claim that a star as far away as 12,000 lights years may be just barely visible to the naked eye under the most pristine conditions. If all of the stars are within 6,000 lights years of the earth, then many, many of them, maybe most of them, would be visible to the naked eye. Astronomers estimate that the number of stars is around 10 to the 24th power. One need merely to look up at the night sky to realize that the number one sees is considerably smaller.

    The only way that yecs can explain this is by coming up with a new astronomy and a new physics to undergird their new astronomy. None has proposed one. Again, most don’t even realize that they are in need of one.

    I understand that a Catholic is permitted, from the point of view of theology, to be a yec. I have to wonder if a Catholic, from the point of view of observed data, can, in good conscience, be a yec.

  24. grannymh says:

    In my previous comments, I demonstrated a few ways materialism affects our knowledge gained by the scientific (inductive) method. As a Catholic defender of the literal Adam, I do not start with the origin of the universe because strictly speaking it is not in the realm of faith and morals. Yet, as Msgr. Pope indicated, the issue of the universe’s origin can intersect with the major Catholic doctrine that it is God Who did the deed. (Genesis 1: 1 and the opening of the Creed professed at Sunday Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) This in turn puts God’s creation of Adam’s spiritual soul in jeopardy.

    From what I have read about the origin of the universe, there is more speculation than evidence. This is why materialists will refute God, a position that cannot be verified using the scientific method. (See question in article) The scientific method is based on evidence from material/physical nature which is considered the authority. In my personal opinion — for materialists, there is no real need for scientific evidence of the universe creating itself or for scientific verification of the non- existence of God. Their philosophical assumptions cover everything. It is the explanation of the “supposed spontaneous origination” of living organisms (including us) directly from lifeless matter (abiogenesis) which impacts Catholicism in this century. More precisely, the theory is that human nature evolved as a large “population” from large common non-human ancestral populations which continued to split so that eventually there was a hominin lineage leading to the modern human anatomy. These archaic populations would trace back to the early signs of life.

    I am not denying the necessary Catholic apologetics demonstrating the origin of the universe. A sincere thank you to those who used these. I am simply adding the fact that the origin of the Universe is only the first step in the very long path of materialism which engulfs our world.

  25. David Warren says:

    Not much to say other than their logic hurt my head.lol.the idea of the universe creating itself from nothing requires faith.also if as they say it created itself because it need to create itself doesn’t that make it intelligent? They really should stop and listen to themselves. They also say it was created from nothing, but then add gravity and some kind of particle. So in there educated words and boring / explanation they say there was something in the absolute nothingness. Wow! Sounds very familiar, like Genesis chapter 1 1;3.
    The only difference between them and what the bible says is Science killed God and replaced Him with themselves. So in conclusion lets all remember them in our prayers that in their search for absolutes they absolutely find God.