We don’t have to know how God created the world, to know that he created the world

In a discussion in December, entitled “Did the laws of physics create themselves?”, I said that when we see a statue, we know that it was created by a sculptor even if we don’t know how and why the sculptor did it. A new reader of VFR, who says he’s been a non-believer all his life, told me recently that when he read that analogy, he began to think that there might be a God after all.

In the discussion, an Ayn Randian atheist named D. Sanchez had said:

How do you answer the problem of the infinite regress? If God created the universe, then what or who created God? If your answer is that God is his own self-sufficient explanation then why cant the universe be its own self-sufficient explanation? In which case why posit the existence of a God?

I replied:

This argument, which I hear repeatedly, typifies the materialist mindset and it misconceives what I am saying. I am not appealing to or implying an “infinite regress”—one question mark leading to another, one emptiness leading to another. I am making a substantive assertion about the nature of reality, namely that the material universe which we can see with our senses is the expression of a mental or spiritual universe which we cannot see with our senses, but which the facts of material existence lead us to conclude exists. The hell of infinite regress is a typical product of materialist thought, which can never come to an end because it can never find a material cause of material existence itself. Bounded by their materialism, the materialists think that God is merely another type of empty materialist explanation for material existence.

D. Sanchez replied:

“The hell of infinite regress is a typical product of materialist thought..” No. The infinite regress is what the theist leaves himself open to. You are saying that existence is not a self-sufficient explanation but is itself the “expression” of a transcendent realm. But what of this transcendent realm? You say it is the ultimate truth and needs no explanation. But why can’t the universe be its own explanation and ultimate truth, an axiom to use the language of philosophy?

I replied:

As for the question of infinite regress that Mr. Sanchez keeps returning to, if he and I were walking along and we came upon a marble statue of Zeus, and Mr. Sanchez said that the statue had created itself through a process of random change, and I said, no, this statue has been created by a sculptor, would I be starting or implying or making necessary an infinite regress? No. I’d simply be saying that this statue was self-evidently the work of a sculptor. I wouldn’t have to know anything in particular about the sculptor for that statement to be true. I wouldn’t have to know what his intentions were, or how he came to be inspired to make this statue, or what tools he used, or how he had come to be born, or what his parents were like, to know for an absolute fact that the statue had been made by a sculptor. End of subject. No infinite regress.

- end of initial entry -

Gintas writes:

The “infinite regress” argument is like unto a philosophical discussion without first principles, or mathematics—which is logic—without axioms or postulates.

LA replies:

This needs to be explained further.

Gintas replies:

When a person rejects God because of the infinite regress argument, he’s saying that God cannot be the First Principle (Creator, Uncaused Cause) of our world. He does know that there has to be some First Principle of our existence, by saying,

“But why can’t the universe be its own explanation and ultimate truth, an axiom to use the language of philosophy?”

In other words, when it comes to God, let’s apply arguments like the “infinite regress,” but when it comes to the world, we don’t apply infinite regress. The world just “explains itself,” it’s “The Truth.” I suppose that makes scientists something of a priesthood, doesn’t it? Lots of hand-waving helps.


Very good, yes. They reject theistic explanations, because, they say, that involves infinite regress. But then they insist on purely material explanations, even though such explanations also require infinite regress.

It always come down to the same thing. Only material explanations are permissible; any thought that even suggests a non-material reality is instantly dismissed as a sign of delusion or even, as in D. Sachez’s deadly cold final comment to me cultimating in his quote of John Galt’s speech, a denial of existence itself, which is the ultimate evil.

Bottom line: if you say you believe in intelligent design or God, then the Randians say to you: “To a gas chamber, go!” If that seems an extreme characterization of Rand’s views, leaf through John Galt’s speech and see the way religious believers are described.

(I remind readers that I think Ayn Rand’s books are very valuable, if read selectively.)

Note (November 28, 2008)

A life-long non-believing reader told me that my statue illustration above made him think for the first time that there might be a God.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 05, 2008 07:30 AM | Send

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