Slightly Less Random Links

Those who have been following the debate between St. Craig and Carroll, or my own recent posts about it, might also be interested in the viewpoints contained in the following articles:

Carroll on laws and causation (St. Feser)

Cosmology and Theology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Just to make things a bit more random, about a year ago my brother (St. Lewis) wrote a blog post about data loss and death.  This post was very difficult for me to read.  Death is not just a big problem but also a little problem, and that is why even children instinctively know about it.  Fortunately the Lord is greater than death, and will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).

I am reminded also of the words of the Lord, when he appeared to my best friend St. Yoaav three times in a dream, saying "I am a God of little things, and little things are preserved in me." (cf. Zech. 4:10, written when the Jewish Temple was being rebuilt by Zerubbabel in 516 BC.)  This occured at a time when he was getting serious about relating to God personally through prayer, but before his conversion to Christianity (from Judaism) the following year.

But we shouldn't get so distracted by our own little tragedies that we forget that we're destroying our own planet.  Some Christians think that because Jesus is going to come back soon, we don't need to take responsibility for the environment, because "people are more important".  They must not have read the passage of Scripture where Jesus says that "you do not know the day or the hour" (Matt. 25:13), or the place where it says that God will "destroy those who destroy the earth" (Rev. 11:18).  If the Master is a long time coming back, then how are we going to take care of all these people once our natural resources are all shot?  And when he does come back, he will judge how well we have fulfilled our responsibilities, one of which is to take care of God's creation as stewards.

True, God will restore all things in the end.  But that doesn't mean we won't be held responsible.  If you suffocate somebody in their sleep to get their money and then—surprise!—10 minutes later Jesus comes back and all the dead are raised and it's the Final Judgment, do you really think you won't be regarded as a murderer because, after all, you only deprived your victim of a few moments of relaxation?  I don't think so.  It will be the same if we are "saved by the bell" from the consequences of our own foolish decisions.  But we must also prepare for the possibility that we are here for the long haul, in which case the problem becomes all the more urgent.  Lord have mercy!

About Aron Wall

I am a Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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2 Responses to Slightly Less Random Links

  1. TY says:

    Professor Aron,
    Thank you for the 9 series on the big theological and cosmological and question “Did the Universe Begin.” It was quite a toure de force (I hope to see it in book form soon) and I can tell you I am more literate in Physics than I ever was. Yet I am still left wondering: did Saint Aron answer the question, based on the physics on which he commands enormous “comparative advantage” -- as we say in economics?

    You write in the blog, Fuzzing into Existence:
    “I've discussed a lot of speculative physics in these last several posts, and I wouldn't want anyone walking away thinking that the physics is more clearly established than it is. In our current state of knowledge, any statements about the beginning of the universe are necessarily speculative, and if we rest our theological beliefs (for or against Theism) on that shaky foundation, we are setting ourselves up for trouble.”

    I can understand where you are coming from. As far as the Christian believer is concerned, our universe had a beginning, revealed in the Book of Genesis. It is a revelation, just like the Holy Trinity, that we believe in. “Beginning” and “Creation” are linked, no doubt about that, but it is open territory for counterattack. Atheists like Carroll and Hawkings argue that if one can explain the Beginning of our world with the best mathematical model, the Creator has no role.

    There are Christian physicists, for example, Stephen Barr, who are acutely aware of the danger of making too tight a link between beginning and creation, for it opens up to this counterattack that science can and will explain the beginning of the universe. See his book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, and:

    But as John Lennox (another saint writing and speaking in the defense of theism) says in “GOD and Stephen Hawking”, “The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but not how it came to exist in the first place.” A similar argument is forcefully made by St. Feser in

    Despite the fact that the Big Bang vindicates the Biblical revelation of the beginning of our world and time, we cannot prove with absolute certainty that beginning. As Feser argues in his article above:

    “As I have indicated, in my view too many people (and not just Craig) put way too much emphasis on scientific cosmology where the debate between theism and atheism is concerned. That just opens the door to objections like Carroll’s, since it makes it sound (wrongly, but understandably) like theism as such is essentially in competition with the sorts of models Carroll pits against Craig.”

    Given your statement, and other similar opinions, do you think it would be better to argue for God’s existence philosophically? For example, there is the “first cause” argument of St. Thomas Aquinas that does not require a beginning but only that every contingent being of fact must have a cause or explanation; such explanation cannot run into an infinite regress, etc.

    My sense is that you are more sympathetic to this approach than one that relies on scientific cosmology or models (which are all speculative anyway). The physics is less established that it appears or is made out to be, as you pointed out.

    Thanks for your reply and the blogs.

  2. Aron Wall says:

    Thanks for the promotion, but I'm still just a postdoc, not a professor. But if my current crop of faculty applications goes well than this might change.

    I am more sympathetic to a philosophical approach, although I don't agree with St. Ed that physics is totally irrelevant to what we should conclude about metaphysics, so we should just go back to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas in all respects (although I do have a great deal of respect for both of these philosophers, and I don't think their metaphysical views should be dismissed out of hand). I think there is more than one viable metaphysical system, and physics may offer clues about which ones make more sense than others.

    There is real (though not conclusive) evidence from Physics pointing to a Beginning, and there is a real potential for certain types of Naturalistic worldviews to be undermined by that fact; contra Carroll I don't think it's meaningless to want an explanation for what made the Universe begin to exist. But in the end I don't think that the question of whether time had a Beginning is necessarily coupled to whether it had a Creator, so I think the best approach needs to go a bit deeper than that.

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