This is just a brief note to mention that we are about to post something a little different. One of our major focuses on this blog has been to highlight the importance of reason to Catholicism. We believe that Catholicism has lost its salutary influence on the culture for a number of reasons, among them a loss of a connection to logic, evidence and ultimately reason, in favor of fuzzy thinking, and sentimentality leading ultimately to subjectivism.
There is an interesting chapter from CS Lewis’s fantasy the “Screwtape Letters”, Those familiar with this fantasy will recall that it involves a series of letters from a senior devil ( Screwtape) to a junior devil ( Wormwood) which gives diabolical advice on how to damn a human ( referred to as the “patient”). The format serves as a device for Lewis to depict how the devil, or if one prefers, abstract sin or vice work in the human heart to separate us from God. It is interesting that Lewis begins up front by making the case that the devil hates reason. Reason is God’s turf. Here is his opening letter:
I note what you say about guiding our patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naive?
It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” of “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”, “conventional” or “ruthless”. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous–that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.
The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favor, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”.
We agree with Lewis, if we reason we move towards God. Our intellect and our will are those things which we possess in “his image”. Moreover since God is truth itself, reason which is ultimately a search for truth is thus directed towards finding God. Our emotions and such are lower faculties and when they govern us no good comes of it.
With this in mind we want to do a series of posts on what we can know about God through natural religion, or rather through reason alone. A hint of this can be seen in our most recent post entitled “Science and religion who wins”. We will soon post a series of 5 pieces that serve as one particular approach to the proof of the existence of God. We did not invent this proof, (obviously!) But in spite of its power we have not seen it referred to very much, so we wanted to try to bring attention to it. This may be because it requires a little more philosophical sophistication to understand, or perhaps a bit more effort. It is hard to do it justice it a few sentences or a cartoon. It bears some relationship to various cosmological arguments, as it also addresses the question why is there something rather than nothing. When we say nothing, we mean nothing in the absolute deepest sense, nothing means not just no matter and energy, but no physical laws, no vacuum energy of the quantum void, no Heinberg’s uncertainty principle, we mean NO THING at all. The proof is therefore deeper than the popularized cosmological arguments. It does not depend on whether or not there was or was not a “big bang” or whether there is a multiverse or not. It can not be in principle falsified by a scientific finding or explanation because it is not a scientific statement about the natural world subject to experimental verification.
It should be obvious that any statement about God would not be scientific in the sense that if you know what God “is” then you would see it is self evident that God in principle can not be the subject of any conceivable experiment and thus is not provable by science per se. This does not mean we can not say anything rational or certain about God. Fermat’s last theorem is certainly true as was Godel’s incompleteness theorem. These mathematical statements of truth are not scientific in the sense that they were not proven by resort to the methods of experimental “science”. ( experimentation, looking for evidence via observation, inductive reasoning) Rather Mathematical truths are reached via deductive reasoning. We begin with initial premises that are self evident or axiomatic and build a series of if- then statements to reach a conclusion. Natural religion proceeds in a very similar fashion and is closely related to the philosophical discipline of metaphysics. Metaphysics can also demonstrate things that are true, but does not rely on experiment. This should not trouble us since it would be absurd to imagine one could use experimental science to verify Fermat’s last theorem, and it is absurd to imagine one can prove or disprove the existence of God using the tools of experimental science. ( Although some tools of science may point to the reasonableness of God’s existence at times.) In any case we will make the case that God exists in our next few posts. We think it will be interesting.