God and necessity

This is extracted from a comment I made on a post by Victor Reppert on his blog: Dangerous Idea.  It deals with the argument that it is absurd to ask who made God because God necessarily exists.  This kind of necessity has been debated countless times by philosophers through the ages and it would be absurd to repeat those debates here.  My concern is slightly different. I wanted to capture this comment as it summarises my position.

There is such a thing as logical necessity e.g. If all men are mortal and Socrates is a man then Socrates is mortal . My point is:

1) The metaphysical status of this necessity is disputed. Are such statements true by definition or do they represent some kind of a priori synthetic truth? As I am sure you know, there are almost as many different positions on this as there are philosophers.

2) Many statements which in the past have been regarded as logically necessary true turn out to be false under some conditions. Euclid’s fifth postulate was considered not just to be an axiom of geometry, but a necessary truth about the world. As you say, the deductions that flow from Euclid’s axioms still hold – but the fifth postulate is an axiom and its status has changed. It is no longer considered necessarily true.

So any argument that turns on “God necessarily exists” is building on shaky foundations. At the very least it requires a thorough explanation of the nature of that necessity. Stepping outside philosophy for the moment, such an argument relies on sophisticated mental gymnastics which clever men have disputed and which cannot be verified by observation. This seems to me an inadequate basis for a religious belief which will guide and dominate your whole life.

On quantum physics

I am sorry but I disagree. Athough there are many conditions constraining the behaviour of subatomic particles there are circumstances when they come into existence (and go out of existence) at time t ( as opposed to t+1) for no apparent reason. Physicists work with this and keep their jobs. As I said, it may turn out one day that there is a cause, but it is a logically consistent world that these events happen for no reason. They just happen. You are concerned that an infinite number of electrons pop into existence simultaneously. But, as you say, there are well recognised constraints on the behaviour of electrons. I am not a quantum physicist but I am imagine these constraints limit the number that can pop into existence simultaneously. This does not entail that the “popping” has a cause.

It is part of our nature to want to ascribe a cause to everything. That makes sense. At a human scale almost every event not only has necessary conditions for it to happen, but also something which causes it to happen at a particular time. But when we move to conditions which are beyond our comprehension such as the quantum world or the beginning of the universe (what could be more extraordinary) then our preconceptions and ways of viewing the world may, and probably do not, apply. What appear to be a priori synthetic statements which are “necessarily” true about space, time and causality are no longer certain. Surely this is one of the lessons of modern physics? Reality is far more extraordinary than we ever imagined and we should be very wary of making assumptions about what is necessarily true under all circumstances.


0 Responses to “God and necessity”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: