Faith and Reason: Why He Should Have Been a Christian
Why He Should Have Been a Christian
This faith and reason video is a scientific refutation of the three central points of Bertrand Russell's essay "Why I am not a Christian." These three points concern his denial of three of the Catholic Church's arguments for God's existence: The First Cause Argument, The Natural-Law Argument, and The Argument from Design.
The First Cause Argument
The first point that Bertrand Russell argues against is what he labels the first cause argument. Basically, the argument is that anything that comes into being must have a cause. Since the universe, had a beginning it must have a cause. For catholic theologians, this cause is God. God, on the other hand, is eternal and has no cause.
Bertrand Russell's accusations of circular reasoning, in the essay, reveal a stunning degree of misunderstanding on his part. The universe has a cause because it had a beginning and is temporary. God, according to the theologians, is eternal; therefore, he needs no cause. Here, Russell fails to understand the difference between temporal and eternal.
Russell goes on to say,
There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.The stunning arrogance of this statement is compounded by the fact that it is totally and utterly incorrect with what he now know of science.
What Bertrand Russell refered to as the "poverty of our imagination" is now known to us as the well-established Big Bang Theory. At the time of Russell's writing, in 1927, many scientists believed that the universe was static, and the physicist Albert Einstein invented his cosmological constant to model it that way. This universe, according to the static model, had always existed and had no beginning. However, a paper published in 1927, by the physicist and Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre, proposed that the universe was expanding and not static. Hence, it had a beginning. Einstein would later accept Lemaitre's model and deem his cosmological constant as his "biggest blunder."
The theory of the big bang was not immediately accepted by all scientists. Atheists, in particular, disliked the divine implications. The atheist physicist Fred Hoyle stated, "The reason why scientists like the 'big bang' is because they are overshadowed by the Book of Genesis. It is deep within the psyche of most scientists to believe in the first page of Genesis." In the end, the Big Bang was accepted and is now the prevailing theory of the cosmos, but Fred Hoyle, like Bertrand Russell, chalked it up to a lack of imagination.
The Natural-Law Argument
Bertrand Russell's section on natural law is full of ackward ruminations on gravity like this: "People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so." Russell simply seems confused here because this is not how the Catholic Church defines natural law.
According to section 1956 of the Catachism of the Catholic Church, "The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men." So, natural law has nothing to do with gravity. Rather, it is part of the essence of human nature. It comprises much of the fields of psychology, sociology, and philosophy, as well as other fields in the humanities.
Without natural law, the fields of study that we know as the humanities would not exist. Nor could humans have a common moral understanding. The spread of Christianity across countries, cultures, and languages is a testament to the existence of natural law; a well-known of example of the precepts of natural law are the ten commandments.
The Argument from Design
The argument from design states that the universe bears definite marks of design by an intelligence. Hence, it must have a designer. According to the Catholic Church, this designer is God.
Bertrand Russell describes the argument this way, " . . . everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design." At the end of the section, he concludes with this sentence: "There is no evidence of design about it."
Since Russell wrote his essay in 1927, our understanding of physics has advanced greatly, and scientists now believe that the universe is designed to a very meticulus degree. This pattern of design has been written about by numerous scientists, including the atheist and Big Bang opponent Fred Hoyle. Countless science books by many scientific authors, Christian and atheist alike, now proclaim the existence of design.
Perhaps the most astonishing proponent of design is the militant atheist Stephen Hawking, who described the situation this way in his physics book A Brief History of Time in 1988:
The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. . . . The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life. For example, if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars either would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded. . . . it seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers that would allow the development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty.
This is not just a tangential belief either. Hawking considers the design of the universe such a significant subject that, in 2010, he dedicated an entire book, The Grand Design, to the topic.