Book Report for "New Proofs For The Existence of God"

Book Report for "New Proofs For The Existence Of God, Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy", by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, published 2010, ISBN 978-0-8028-6383-6.

Robert J. Spitzer has an extensive background in physics, metaphysics, and philosophy. He seems to be a believer in an intelligent creator of the universe. This book attempts to prove that point to other scientifically literate people.

This book is NOT an easy read and I expect the audience that will appreciate it will be rather small. To get the most out of this book, one must be fairly fluent in physics, cosmology, astrophysics, quantum physics, quantum mechanics, metaphysical ontology and cosmogony, and philosophies such as epistemology, ontology, and teleology. That's quite a list.

My overall impression of the book is that he is using obfuscation through esoteric knowledge of the disciplines noted above and a lax burden of proof to come to his conclusion, which is that the universe was created by an intelligent designer who is eternal and exists outside of the bounds of space and time.

He does this by detailing the prevailing scientific theories on the birth of the universe (big bang theories, expansion, string theory, multiverse, etc.) and shows (not incorrectly) that all these theories suggest that there was an ultimate beginning to everything. Time is not infinite in the past. A dozen chapters are dedicated to proving this one premise: at one point, something was created from nothing.

He spends a lot of time talking about how finely tuned our universe seems to be to support life. He discusses many of the physical values (such as the cosmological constant, strength of the strong force, weak force, gravity, and electomagnetism, and others) we observ that, if different by some ridiculously small amount would result in a universe that absolutely would not support any life. This is meant to add proof that the universe was not only created, but created by an intelligence that wanted life (specifically humans) to exist.

He then spends several chapters discussing metaphysical and philosophical arguments concerning creation and insists that the premise "from nothing comes nothing" is indeed true.

Now that he has established these two premises as true, or at least as true as something must be to base our beliefs on, he concludes that the following logical statement is true, or at least the only rational thing that one could believe concerning the birth of our universe.

  Premise 1: The universe had a beginning (prior to which nothing existed)
  Premise 2: Nothing comes from nothing. (matter, energy, time cannot arise naturally from nothing)
  Conclusion: An intelligent designer outside the realm of space and time (i.e. God) created the universe.
 
This logical argument can be simplified:
Argument A
  1. The universe was created from nothing.
  2. Something cannot normally come from nothing.
  3. Therefore, something paranormal created the universe from nothing
 
Premise 1 seems to make sense. The mathematicians playing with the various scientific hypothesis of the origin of the universe seem to show that, at some point, our universe was created. Prior to this creation absolutely nothing existed. The universe is not infinite.

This sounds reasonable because we have never seen anything that is infinite. Most people cannot even grasp the idea of infinity. The only place we deal with infinities is in advanced mathematics. We really have no idea whether anything can be infinite or not. So, this premise sounds reasonable, but we really can't say that it is true or false.

Premise 2 also seems reasonable. Again, we know of no examples of something coming from absolutely nothing. In everything we see created, it was created from something that existed before its creation. The author puts this forward as a metaphysical argument which, in my mind, means that it is not scientifically testable or refutable. Therefore it doesn't represent a truth per se, but rather a nice-sounding argument. Again, we don't know if this is possible or not, so we cannot accept it as truth, but it does sound reasonable.

The conclusion takes the godditit (see below) leap to prove its point, but I don't accept it.

This was the main argument in the book, but he is also stating more than this. If we accept the above conclusion, then he states:
Argument B
  1. Life requires specific values for many physical constants which can have variable values
  2. Life exists in this universe
  3. Therefore, the creator set the values of these constants in order for life to exist.

Premise 1 - I just don't buy this. I understand that the values of these constants must be in a certain very tiny range in order to allow life to exist in our universe, but I don't accept that they can have varying values. They are numbers yes, but that doesn't mean that they are values that could ever change, even in a parallel universe. The cosmological constant could be just that; a constant (unchanging) value; a property of the universe. To argue that, if the value were just one part in 10^-305 different that the universe would support life is to assume that it CAN change. We have no proof that these properties are different in other parts of our universe now or at any time in the past. And we certainly don't know what their values are in other universes or dimensions (if those even exist). If these values are untunable, then we can discard the notion of a tuner.

Premise 2 - I accept this premise as being true.

I don't accept the conclusion based on not accepting premise 1.
 
 
Ultimately, I believe he wants to show that
  1. The universe was created by God and finely tuned specifically for humans.
  2. "He" did this because he loves us and wants us to love Him.
 
I have a problem with his arguments though because of these informal fallacies that I can see.
  A. Argument from ignorance - Assuming that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false, or vice versa.
  B. Argument from silence - The conclusion is based on the absence of evidence, rather than the existence of evidence.
  C. False dilemma - Two alternative statements are held to be the only possible options, when in reality there are more.
  D. Nirvana fallacy - When solutions to problems are rejected because they are not perfect.
 
I'll explain where I see these fallacies.

Throughout the book the author discusses the latest and greatest findings in astrophysics and cosmology put forth to describe what is observed in the universe. He shows where these hypothesis prove his arguments and provide proof that his premises are correct. I believe that this is fallacious because these are not ALL the explanations for such phenomena; they are only the best that we've come up with at this time. These other theories are unknown at this time, but that doesn't mean that we cannot discover them. His basic argument is that: here is the best that science has to offer, and here is why they do not describe a universe without God, therefore it proves my argument that God exists.

This is called the "goddidit" argument. If a reason for something cannot be stated, then God did it. It's a huge leap that ignores any future discoveries and allows the speaker to claim anything they wish. A thousand years ago, people wanted to know why hail stones would fall from the sky. Since no one had a good answer, the conclusion was that God was angry with them for some reason.

Most of his argument comes down to the false argument that there are only two choices: A-Science and B-God. Only one of these choices is correct. He proves that A is wrong in that it doesn't have the answer, so his conclusion is that B is the only rational answer.

If only two choices are given, and one is wrong, the other must be right, right? Wrong. Both could be right. Neither could be right. Or perhaps one or the other is the correct one.

He also assumes that there are no other choices. I disagree with this assumption.

Science has not proven that God does not exist, and it never will. It cannot do this. Not because God does exist, but because it is not testable. Can we prove that in the distant galaxy of X91 there isn't a solar system with a planet that has a 1947 Ford pickup truck in orbit around it? No. That doesn't prove that it is there. There is much more work for science to do to explain the universe, and will change as more evidence is accumulated and tested. Because it doesn't have all the answers is not license to reject everything about science.

Overall, the author has not proven to me that an intelligent creator created the universe from nothing, but he could be correct. He offers many interesting facts and I don't see him misrepresenting the current scientific theories. He doesn't need to since they are not complete nor absolutely correct. If you already have a belief in an intelligent creator, this book will give you some ammunition to use against he atheists to support your belief, but ultimately its premises contain the same logical flaws as we have all heard for hundreds of years.

Views: 204

Comment by Davis Goodman on April 10, 2014 at 3:57pm

Something came from nothing. GOD DID IT!!!!!!!

It seems too much of a coincidence that humans exist. GOD DID IT !!!!!!

Love is all around. GOD DID IT!!!!!!!!

There are many unanswered questions. GOD DID IT !!!!!!!!

Thanks for the review LikeArumba

Comment by IkeArrumba on April 10, 2014 at 4:29pm

You're welcome. Thanks for the chuckle.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on April 10, 2014 at 5:20pm

When I read the title of your post my first reaction was to grin to myself as the words “yeah, because the old proofs for the existence of (any) god have turned out to be nothing but arguments that no longer have any merit" came to mind. They were never really “proofs” once we discovered Science and used it to answer the questions that were once considered to be metaphysical.

Science has replaced religion. For me religion is bunk. For me there is no conflict between the two. Religion no longer has any answers to offer. For the religious there is a conflict because Science not only keeps sucking their gods out of any gaps in our knowledge but it also contradicts any answers that they hold sacred, such as Evolution and the Genesis fable. There may be “non-overlapping magisteria” for some but not for me.

So my second thought (before I read it) was that this is going to be an abuse of Science and a misrepresentation of Scientific Consensus. Just as religion was our first attempt at Science (Hitchens) the misunderstanding and abuse of science will be its last before we finally ditch it. We only need to look at all the religious discoveries of the last 400 years to see that :-)

So now what religion does, as it flays about in the deep-end waters of real discovery and real knowledge, is to appeal to those that are not very scientifically literate by misrepresenting Science. In doing this they gain credence among the flock (and money) and assuage their fears by convincing them that Science and religion are compatible. No matter how many gaps get filled by science they will still hold to the iron-age belief that their god set it all in play.

I am continually reminding theists that what they call “proofs for god” are nothing but “arguments for god”. The Jehovah Witnesses are always at it. Science offers objective proofs, religion nothing but subjective opinions.

This old T/A post had the word “proof” changed to ”evidence” when it first got posted. It was posted by the person that prepares W.L. Craig's webcasts as I recall.

 

Comment by captain kingsway on April 10, 2014 at 6:19pm

Hi guys, this is a very interesting subject, the trick of proof changed to so called evidence keeps the authors of the usual drivel & nonsense on the good side of the power base system which is in control re rulers of nations etc.

Comment by IkeArrumba on April 11, 2014 at 8:31am

The thing I notice is that religious believers (mostly) need an answer to every question, even the huge "unanswerable" questions like "why am I here?". The answer "I don't know-yet" is not satisfying so they leap to metaphysical answers. I guess this makes them feel whole.

Comment by Obfuskation on April 11, 2014 at 2:01pm

How much of it is "new" proofs, and how much is just a repackaging of the same tired "old" proofs.  I get the impression that the more educated theists just wrap arguments from ignorance, watchmaker, and other debunked nonsense into pretty new packages every once in a while and try to pass them off as new proof of the one truth.

Comment by Pope Beanie on April 11, 2014 at 7:13pm

Conclusion: An intelligent designer outside the realm of space and time (i.e. God) created the universe.

I'm not sure there's anything necessarily wrong with such a belief. Sure, scientifically it's meaningless because it's untestable and therefore unprovable and not disprovable. Scientific relevance to this conversation doesn't exist. For that matter, a pink polka dotted leprachaun may be our Creator! I.e. the point is, what difference does it make?!

Discourse wrt creation really only matters when people extend the discourse to other conclusions, like what God wants, "His" sex and His edicts, and His plans for humanity. His Bible didn't predict spherical earth, or nuclear energy, or medical advances, physics and cosmology, any Sciences that made these fields of knowledge and achievements possible. Making pronouncements solely in the name of scripture or based upon whatever one's arbritrarily chosen theological "authority" claims does absolutely nothing to advance science. In fact various religion's historic affect on science has been to act as its enemy.

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