Saturday, March 28, 2009

Scruton: The Return of Religion

Stevec sent a link to this piece by Roger Scruton. The Return of Religion.

His main point is, I think, that the new atheists just assume science can answer every question.

I don't think they do, but even if they did, they don't need to in order to be able to blow Scruton's God out of the water. See here...

As a rule, I always stress that I do NOT say science can answer every question. That's a hostage to fortune.


Tony Sidaway said...

Just looked at your "Why is there something rather than nothing?" posting, to which you refer above.

I'm particularly attracted to the notion that it's a pointless question, because if it were not the case there would be nobody here to ask the question. I believe you touched on this in your summary of Bede Rundle (your review is linked from the other posting):

"Rundle then moves on to the theistic suggestion that the existence of the universe points to the existence of a being that is, of itself, necessary. His treatment of this sort of argument (a version of which constitutes Aquinas’ Third Way) culminates in the observation that while the existence of a being that is, of itself, necessary would indeed suffice to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing, the question can be answered by a much weaker thesis – that there had to be something or other. To suppose that there had to be something is not yet to suppose that there is a particular being that had to be."

I'm not sufficiently au fait with cosmological arguments to have a good grasp of the field (I only encountered Leibniz' monadology a few months ago) but that generally seems to match my instuitive feeling that if you needed a prime cause the universe itself is as good a candidate (if not better, by eliminating the unnecessary) as something external.

To put it another way, causality can be seen as something intrinsic to the universe and it doesn't make sense to talk of external matters (outside, before, or after, whether merely chronological/spacial or through causation).

As a practical matter we cannot know everything of the universe, and it may well be impossible to know whether or not it had an external cause. That's not the same as saying that it did have an external cause, however.

In fact it seems to me that there is a conceptual problem with this whole notion of an external cause. Suppose universe A has an external cause a. Then we define universe A' to be universe A plus its cause, a. If we wish to avoid an infinite regression (which is the whole point of having a primary cause) then we must continue until all the causes a, a', a' and so on are incorporated in a universe that embraces its own cause.

Faust said...

Scruton's god is entirely too nebulous to be blown out of the water. He says "But from this experience a new kind of religious consciousness is being born: a turning of the inner eye towards the transcendental and a constant invocation of ‘we know not what’."

So...god is a feeling? A say..."Cosmic religious feeling" to use Einsteins phrase? Scruton leaves it fast and loose, but I don't think he's merely asking "why is there something rather than nothing" it would be much more accurate to say he's saying "we have consciousness therefore we are reaching for a higher consciousness." Which proves nothing of course, but it's not the same as asking "why is there not nothing."

He seems to be dancing around a kind of pantheism more than anything else. I didn't really get the sense he was making any proof of god argument of any kind.