Friday, July 4, 2008

Why is the cosmological argument for the existence of God important?

I've been rereading David Berlinski's The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (for a review I am writing), and happened on this:
It is one thing to deny that there is a God; it is quite another to deny that the universe has a cause. What remains, if the universe does have a cause, is the gap between what brought the universe into existence and traditional conceptions of the deity. This is no trivial matter. Nonetheless, the cosmological argument succeeds in displacing the burden of proof from its starting point (Is there a God?) to a place much later in the argument (Is it right and proper to think that the cause of the universe is God? ) (p. 64)

Also, on physicists' response to the Big Bang: After Penzias's famous comments,

Physicists quickly came to their senses, They discovered elaborate reasons to avoid the obvious, not least of which, the fact that the obvious was obvious. For more than a century, physicists had taken a manful pride i 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 begin. Where would physics be, physicists asked themselves, if we had paid the slightest attention to the obvious." Philosophers helped by asserting that a beginning wasn't really a "beginning" But observation and theory met in the Big Bang and would not go away.

"Perhaps the best argument in favor of the thesis that the Big Bang supports theism," the astrophysicist Christopher Isham has observed, "is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists. At times this has led to scientific ideas, such as continuous creation or an oscillating universe, being advanced with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to support his or her theory." (P. 81)
And more. But now get your own copy. I am not spending the rest of the summer typing!

Here's the review:

Introduction:Berlinski, the devil, and the long spoon
Part One: Taking the measure of the new religion of science
Part Two: Materialism conflicts with evidence more than theism does
Part Three: Evolutionary psychology - the saints' legends of scientism
Part Four: The duty Berlinski never accepted