Wednesday, October 07, 2015
, This issue is important to some of my major God arguments (for example "fire in the equations."
Science no longer defines physical law in the sense of an active set rules that tell nature what to do (as seen in chapter one). The sentiment is gospel in science. A Canadian Physicist, Byron Jennings, expresses it like this: “It is worth commenting that that laws of nature and laws of man are completely different beasts and it is unfortunate that they are given the same name. The so called laws of nature are descriptive. They describe regularities that have been observed in nature. They have no prescriptive value. In contrast, the laws of man are prescriptive, not descriptive.”1 Santo D’Agostino tells us, “...[T]he laws of science are not like the laws in our legal systems. They are descriptive, not prescriptive.”2
Contradiction in the descriptive paradigm
A closer look reveals that there is a contradiction here. The standard line about descriptions is double talk. First of all no one thinks physical laws are on a par with laws passed by congress. Just for the record I am not arguing that laws require a law giver, that is equivocation (although science still uses the misleading term “law”). Physical laws proceed from the mind of God, that is totally different from laws in human society. Secondly, Physical laws are just descriptions but what they describe is a law-like regularity. The question is, why is there an unswerving faithful regularity? That cannot be answered just by calling the regularity a “description.” It is so regular that we can risk people's lives in roller coasters based upon trusting those “descriptions.” D'Agostino again says, “For me, the key word is describe. A scientific law is a convenient description of observations. The law of science does not tell the world how to be, the world just is; science is a human attempt to engage with the mysteries of the world, and to attempt to understand them,”3(emphasis his). It just is, there is no why? Do Scientist really live with that? No they do not. “Most physicists working on fundamental topics inhabit the prescriptive camp, even if they don't own up to it explicitly.”4But then the Stephen Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology puts it point blank: “The physical laws that govern the Universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time.”5 Clearly they want it both ways, they want physical laws not to be the will of God but they want them to be binding. The nature of the problem is deeper than just the language of an antiquated term. It really seems that physicists want it both ways.
In many perhaps most scientific disciplines the finality of a theory continues to be measured by its resemblance to the classical laws of physics, which are both causal and deterministic….The extreme case of the desire to turn observed regularity into law is of course the search for one unified law of nature. That embodies all other laws and that hense will be immune to revision.vi They still use the model of physical law, but they deny it's law-like aspects, yet they want it to be unalterable and to sum everything up in one principle. Don't look now but what she is describing is a transcendental signifier! That's the impetus behind grand unified theory f everything. Why add “of everything?” That clearly points to the transcendental signifier.
In his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time", physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that when physicists find the theory he and his colleagues are looking for - a so-called "theory of everything" - then they will have seen into "the mind of God". Hawking is by no means the only scientist who has associated God with the laws of physics. Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, for example, has made a link between God and a subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson. Lederman has suggested that when physicists find this particle in their accelerators it will be like looking into the face of God. But what kind of God are these physicists talking about? Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.7 Weinberg tells us the theory of everything will unite all aspects of physical reality in a single elegant explanation.8Exactly as does the TSED! It's really describing a prescriptive set of laws, so it seems. If their theory can only give descriptions of how the universe behaves how is it going to explain everything? It seems explanatory power only comes with certainty about how things work. That is weaker with probable tendencies than with actual laws. Why are they looking for a single theory to sum it all up if they don't accept some degree of hierarchical causality?
Modern “descriptive laws:” Taking God out of the picture.
Is their rejection of law just a desire to get God out of the picture? That is abundantly clear, at least for some scientists. Paul Davies, a major physicist, thinks so:
Many scientists who are struggling to construct a fully comprehensive theory of the physical universe openly admit that part of the motivation is to finally get rid of God, whom they view as a dangerous and infantile delusion, And not only God but any vestige of God-talk, such as 'meaning,' 'purpose,' or 'design' in nature. These scientists see religion as so fraudulent and sinister that nothing less than total theological cleansing will do.9The concept of law was formed in a time when scientists inextricably linked God with science. Robert Boyle purposely appealed to dive command in creation, as did Newton.10 These were devout believers, and it was also expedient in the confessional English state. The English dealt with heretics by not inviting them to weekend at Westmoreland or by passing them over for honors. After the time of Newton the field of scientific acuity shifted to France. The French put heretics in jail. The Catholic church was much more in charge in France, enjoying the support of the monarchy, than in Protestant England.11 Thus the French Philosophs rebelled with great ferocity against the Church and religious belief. The French rebellion carried over into all areas of modern letters, not the least in science.
Modern scientists since the enlightenment have sought to take God out of the picture. Philosophers are honest enough to admit there is a problem callingthe law-like regularity “description.” After Chalmers explains that Boyle's “stark ontology” made nature passive and left God to do all the work, he writes:
I assume that, from the modern point of view, placing such a heavy, or indeed any, burden on the constant and willful intervention of God is not acceptable. But eliminating God from the account leaves us with the problem. How can activity and law like behavior be introduced into a world characterized in terms of passive or categorical properties only?12At least the scientific realists, such as Chalmers know there is a problem in the tension between unalterable regularity, and description. Many scientists either don't see the problem, or refuse to acknowledge it. Some assert a confidence in science's ability to one day answer all questions.
In recent years, under the influence of the new atheism, some physicists have began to compete with God. They claim not only to offer the better explanation, but to learn enough so as to one day erase the God concept from any serious consideration. Steven Pinker, (in answer to a question for discussion posed by the Tempelton foundation, “does science make belief in God obsolete?”): “Yes 'science' we mean the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge (including history and philosophy), not just people with test tubes and white lab coats. Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral?”13 Of course he offers no evidence that science can answer such things (notice he expanded the definition of science to include disciplines many scientists seek to get rid of (philosophy) 14
that is the area that could answer the questions that science can't. He also offers no evidence that religion still can't answer them, but he goes on to say, “Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.” So he's made two fallacious moves here, the classic bait and switch and straw man argument. He say science makes God obsolete but then only if er expand science to include non-science. We could just include modern theology instead of nineteenth century theology and bring religion into science. Sorry, but belief in God does not rest with young earth creationism.Pinker is not just using young Earth creationism to debunck all religion, even though that is a straw man argument. He's really making the same kind of answer that physicist Dean Carroll is making. He's saying “since we now have the capacity to learn everything (someday) we don't need to appeal to God to answer what we don't know" thus he asserts that the only reason to believe is the God of the gaps argument). Carroll puts it a bit differently:
Modern cosmology attempts to come up with the most powerful and economically possible understanding of the universe that is consistent with observational data. It's certainly conceivable that the methods of science could lead us to a self-contained picture of the universe that doesn't involve God in any way. If so, would we be correct to conclude that cosmology has undermined the reasons for believing in God, or at least a certain kind of reason?15Of course this is the standard wrong assumption often made by those whose skepticism is scientifically based. Explaining nature is not the only reason to believe in God.
Moreover, they are nowhere near explaining nature in it's entirety, the TS argument is the best answer to the questions posed by the transcendental signifiers. It's pretty clear that for Carroll, and those who share his outlook the signifier “science” replaces the signifier “God” in their metaphysical hierarchy. They still have a TS and that speaks to the all pervasive nature of the TS. I've discussed in the previous chapter how the best answer to questions of origin have to be philosophical. That is confirmed by Pinker when he argues philosophy as part of science. The TS argument is philosophical. Science is not the only form of knowledge. Carroll admits there is not as of yet a theory that explains it all. He admits, “We are trying to predict the future: will there ever be a time when a conventional scientific model provides a complete understanding of the origin of the universe?”16He asserts that most modern cosmologists already feel we know enough to write off God and that there are good enough reasons. In 2005 article he says, as the title proclaims, “almost all cosmologists are atheists.” 17 That may be true of cosmologists but I doubt it, and I have good reason to. First, I don't see any poll of physicists in the article. He only argues anecdotally by quoting a few people. If there was a poll it would be at least as old as 2005.
A More extensive study from 2007 (two years after publication of Carroll's article don't back up those findings. This study was done by Harvard professors who find the majority of science professors believe in God.18 They present a bar graph that shows about 35% professor's are elite research universities believe in God with no doubt. About 27% believe but sometimes have doubts. About 38% are atheists. That actually means that 60% are not atheists. True that's not cosmologists but there is good reason to think the majority of cosmologists are not atheists. The most atheistic groups in the study were psychologists (61%), biologists (about 61%), and mechanical engineers (50%), not physicists (among whose ranks cosmologists number). 19 “Contrary to popular Opinion, atheists and agnostics do not comprise a majority of professors even at elite schools, but they are present in larger numbers than in other types of institutions.”20 No group has “almost all” as atheist. Even if cosmologists are mostly atheists (not studied because they are a handful and highly specialized) it's still appeal to authority and could be based upon hubris. They do not have any empirical data at all to prove the universe could spring from nothing. I will will demonstrate the problems with this view much more clearly in the next chapter. Let's just remember the atheist position on this point is an appeal to faith.
1 Byron Jennings, “The Role of Authority in Science and Law,” Quantum Diaries: Thoughts on Work and Life From Particle Physicists From Around The World. (Feb.3,2012) Online resource URL: http://www.quantumdiaries.org/tag/descriptive-law/ Accessed 8/31/15 Byron Jennings is Project Coordinator for TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory, he's an adjunct Professor at Simon Freaser University. He is also the editor of In Defense of Scientism.
2 Santo 'D Agostino, “Does Nature Obey The Laws of Physics?,” QED Insight, (March 9,2011). Online resource, URL: https://qedinsight.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/does-nature-obey-the-laws-of-physics/ accessed 8/26/15. D'Agostino is a mathematician who writes science text books. Ph.D. from The University of Toronto, he is also assistant professor in Physics at Brock University.
3 Ibid. 4 Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: why is the universe Just Right For Life? New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition, 2007, 12. Davies is an English physicist, professor at Arizona State University. He was formerly an atheist and his major atheist book was God and The New Physics, written in the 70s. Since the late 90's he as become a believer, not a Christian but believer in a generic deistic sort of God. He was convinced by the fine tuning argument and his major book since that time is The Mind Of God. He has taught at Cambridge and Aberdeen.
5 CTC, “Origins of the Universe: Quantum Origins,” The Stephan Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge, online resource, URL: http://www.ctc.cam.ac.uk/outreach/origins/quantum_cosmology_one.php accessed 10/5/15.
6 E. F. Keller, quoted in Lynn Nelson, Who Knows: From Quine to Feminist Empiricism. Temple University Press, 1990, 220. Evelyn Fox Keller is a physicist and a Feminist critic of science. Professor Emerita at MIT. Her early work centered on the intersection of physics and biology. Nelson is associate professor of philosophy at Glassboro State College.
7 Counter balance foundation, “Stephen Hawking's God,” quoted on PBS website Faith and Reason. No date listed. Online resource, URL http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/intro/cosmohaw-frame.html the URL for the website itself: http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/stdweb/info.html accessed 8/26/2015. This resource provided by: Counterbalance Foundation
counterbalance foundation offers this self identification: “Counterbalance is a non-profit educational organization working to promote the public understanding of science, and how the sciences relate to wider society. It is our hope that individuals, the academic community, and society as a whole will benefit from a struggle toward integrated and counterbalanced responses to complex questions.” see URL above. The faith anjd reason foundation helped fund the PBS show. I first founjd thye piece “Stephen Hawking's God early the century, maybe 2004, certainly before 2006. It was on a sight called Metalist on science and religion. That site is gone.
8 Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 1994, 3, also 211.
9 Paul Davies, Jackpot...op. Cit.,15.
10 Alan Chalmers, “Making sense of laws of physics,” Causation and Laws Of Nature, Dordrecht, Netherlands : Kluwer Academic Publishers, (Howard Sankey, ed.), 1999, 3-4.
11 Joseph Hinman, God, Science, and Ideology. Chapter 2.
12 Chalmers, op., cit.
13 Stephen Pinker, quoted on website, John Tempelton Foundation, “A Tempelton conversation, “Does SciencMake Belief in God Obsolete?” The third in a series of conversations among leading scientists...Onlne resource, website. URL: http://www.templeton.org/belief/ accessed 9/4/15. Tempelton bio for Pinker: Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.
14 Anthany Mills, "Why Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Hate Philosophy," Real Clear Science. (May 22, 2014) http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2014/05/22/why_does_neil_degrasse_tyson_hate_philosophy.html "In a controversial interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as “distracting.” The host of the television series Cosmos even suggested that philosophy could inhibit scientific progress by encouraging “a little too much question asking.” He thus follows a growing secular trend that cordons Science off from all other forms of inquiry, denigrating whatever falls outside science’s purported boundaries – especially the more “speculative” pursuits such as philosophy."
15 Sean Corroll, ”Does The Universe Need God?” on Sean Carroll's website, Perposterous Universe.com, online resource, URL: http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/dtung/ accessed 9/4/2015
17 Sean Carroll,"Why (Almost All) Cosmologists Are Atheists," Faith and Philosophy, 22, (2005) p. 622.
18 Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “How Religious Are America's College and University Pressors.” SSRC, (published feb. 2007), PDF URL, accessed 9/4/15 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of thehttp://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Gross_Simmons.pdf Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com. Neil Gross is assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University. He works on classical and contemporary sociological theory, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of intellectuals. His first book, tentatively titled Richard Rorty's Pragmatism: The Social Origins of a Philosophy, 1931-1982, is forthcoming. Solon Simmons is assistant professor of conflict analysis and sociology at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His recent work has focused on values talk in congressional speeches, third party political candidates, industrial reorganization and the ongoing conservative critique of American higher education
Monday, October 05, 2015
It used to be when I started doing the internet apologetics thing certain atheist certain conventions were in place. Although atheists did seem truly shocked by the prospect that God was not empirical, most of them seemed to accept it. Now they seem universally to be diametrically opposed to even the most veg suggestion that anything could be beyond the empirical, especially god.
The reason is transparent. If God is empirical then the lack of empirical proof counts against belief. So they are willing to give up logically obvious positions in order to get this child's advantage of being able to insist that our little limited view point on this dust mote in a vast sea we have yet to plumb is somehow indicative of real empirical proof of the nature of the universe.
Recently an atheist argued on my message board that parsimony rules out God. This is so ignorant it hurts to think how totally ignorant it is. For one thing, I have an argument that proves the existence of God by parsimony. If God is empirical, and my argument succeeds at proving that he's parsimonious then logically this should prove the existence of God, at least to the extent that that atheist thinks Parsimony would disprove it. But I'm sure he would never admit that. It might interest someone to know that parsimony is not a rule of logic. Its not something that logicians will absolutely endorse. So It's not necessarily a standard of truth. Moreover there are different kinds of parsimony. An idea can be parsimonious in one way and not in a another.
By that term most atheists just "scientific." So to them God is contrary to the rules of science because he's the product of soemthing called "supernatural." They don't have the slightest idea where the concept comes from or what it really says, but they are sure it's stupid and don't' want anything do to with it. So God can't be parsimonious because he's supernatural. I have about eight pages on what the supernatural really is.To get the drift properly please be sure and read them.
God could only be the subject of parsimony if he is the object of empirical investigation. I can see why atheists want this to be true, because they could pretend that they've ruled out God, with their penchant for ignoring God arguments, and their glass half empty outlook which always finds the negative, the dark, the bad, refuses proof, refuses the benefit of a doubt only the cutting edge of doubt. But God is not the object of empriical investigation, nor can he be by definition. thus he cannot be judged by parsimony. The whole idea contradicts phenomenology in the first place. So typical of atheists to cherry pick reality so they accept the schools of philosophy that help them and consign as hog wash any kind of thinking that they can't understand (which is most of it).
God cannot be empirical. There are three reasons. These reasons are deductive. The reasons themselves do not require empirical proof because they are deductive. In fact they could not be empirical and claim to to prove that God is beyond the empirical because they would have to have empirical evdience of God to say that, which would be a contradiction.
The three reasons are absolute:
(1) To be empirical something must be contingent. This is explained by Karl Popper:
empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something.(Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.)
for a basic explanation of necessity and contingency go here.
God, by definition, cannot be contingent. This same atheist on my board who argued the parsimony thing also tried to content that God doesn't have to be necessary. He also said "just because you think a being is necessary..." Of course he makes several mistakes:
(a) thinking my reasons for this are simply that whatever one believes must be true, so the lie campaign always works eventually to sucker some people.
(b) that god is "a being" he even said "If you think god is an abstract concept then I would actually believe in him. (duh).
these are simple basic axiomatic things that anyone should know before going into a philosophical discussion about God. This just highlights the fact that atheists spend so much of their time dreaming up stupid loopholes in the bible and trying to deny major philosophers that they don't know the basics of God talk.
God is necessary, by definition. That's what the word "God" means as it is used in modern theology. In literal Anglo Saxon of the dark ages it meant something like "superior chief" but that is etymology. That was a long time ago. as the word has come to be used in modern theological parlance it refers to the thing at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy: that which nothing greater than can be conceived; necessary being.
Thus because God is necessary and not contingent, he cannot be the subject of empirical proof.
(2) God is not a thing along side other things in creation, but is the basis of reality: God is being itself.
If we could say the universe contains trees and oranges, and mutt dogs and swizzel sticks and mud pies and jelly and fish and comic books and flt tires and roofs and taxes and stupid people, and God, then they would have a point. What's wrong with this list? God is not just another thing. God created all that stuff and everything else. Nothing would exist without God. So God is not along side jelly and swizzle sticks in creation. As St. John of Damascus said "God exists on the order of Being itself." God is not a product of things in creation, god is the basis of all reality. Thus, God may not be treated as things in creation. God is not contingent because he' snot produced by a prior thing. He's not part of creation, the basis of it, so obviously he can't be given in sense data he can't be understood in a empirical way.
(3) God is eternal.
Because God always was, never came to be, is not dependent upon anything else for his existence, we can say that God, if there is a God, then God had to be. there is maybe. It's not a matter of maybe God might not have existed. God must be either necessary or impossible. this is what Harsthorne proved in this modal argument.
This is the kind of stuff that atheist can't handle because it proves their view is totally wrong a priori. So they are going vomit all over and deny that it means anything and say it's all hog wash. but they are so lazy none of them will ever go look it up. If they would bother too they would see immediately that serious thinker considers the possibly that God might be continent. Even atheists serious thinkers know better than this (but of course not the know nothings on CARM or other atheist dens of stupidity).
Because the concept of God is that of eternal necessary being, God cannot be contingent and since empirical things can only be contingent, God cannot be the object of empirical study.
they never answer any of this. the only think they ever do with it say it's its hog wash, vomit their illiteracy on it and run away.
These arguments prove conclusively and beyond question that God cannot be empirical. Since God cannot be empirical it makes prefect since that there is obvious evidence for god in the starts lining to spell out his name or any of that nonsense. it might just be that God is parsimonious in some sense, but not in the sense of being more scientific, which is I think the way most atheists use it (because they don't know any better).
All of these things require a whole education. These guys are usually too lazy to click on a single link. They would rather ridicule and insult intelligence than to actuality study the products of it.
One final note: it is not a contradiction on my part to say that my Parsimony argument might offer rational warrant to believe, but that God is not a subject of parsimony. I said there is a distinction in types. What atheists mean by it and what I mean by the term are two different things. My argument turns upon being an elegant idea, so God need not be empirical to be judged elegant; all one need know is a concept
Thursday, October 01, 2015
This came up for me on CARM once,when someone made an argument trying to show God is would have to create brute facts. Ohter atheists chimed in saying God w would be a brute fact.
The meaning of the controversy is the difference between Paul Tillich's view of God as being itself, and the atheist understanding that "the universe just is." Tillich said that if we know that being has depth that it's not just "surface only" then we can't be atheists (Shaking of the Foundations, chapter seven). The atheist understanding has long been their answer to arguments like the cosmological argument. When theists divide up mobes of being into necessary and contingent,the atheist merely says "well what if being just is, it has no meaning or reason for being its' just there?" Of course that's a possibility but it doesn't answer the question, and saying it doesn't make the depth we can see in being go away. What is meant by "depth" of being is that there more to being than just the surface fact of things existing. That's what the concept of "the universe just is" tries to convey, the idea of no reason, not no scientific cause necessarily although they do sometimes try to say that too. These are two totally diametrically opposed understandings. The atheist view says being just is, no reason, nothing to consider or worry about, it's just there for no reason, absurdity. The theists seems more to the nature of being than meets the eye from the surface level. There has to be more to it than just the fact of things existing.
The cosmological argument, for example has different versions, but in generally all CA's assert that there must be final cause to account for the existence of the whole of reality. The atheist's often counter this final cause with an infinite series of contingent causes such as the oscillating universe of big bangs and big crunches. This is called an ICR (infinite causal regression). The atheist asserts that the universe just happens to be for no reason and it's made up of a series of little universes that come in and go out of existence. The whole chain, contingent though it may be (some deny validity of the category "contingent") passes on existence to the next version in the form of a big crunch that then expands again in another big bang. Some argue that the crunch (contraction of gravitational forces) becomes a blck hole and "punches out" the other side as a new big bang. This is not the only mechanism for ICR. They also posit the notion of quantum tunneling and string membranes. The oscillating universe, however, is the most popular form of ICR becuase it's the only one with proven potential, even though the evidence disproves it (scroll down to (2) Cyclical Universe). As ICR for origin of the universe quantum tunneling invovles self causation where the singularity, or some original element or fragment of reality keeps tunneling back to cause itself at another point in time. This would involve being just having no logical origin but causing itself over and over eternally. String membrane in the sense of ICR is more or less the idea of a floating dimension just drifting along, bashing into another floating dimension and causing a third dimension. Since it posits the idea of a dimension just floating for no reason (2 actually) why bother with the mess? Why not say the universe needs no origin?
There's no absolute proof in any of this. If we want to get technical there's no actual proof that we are even living in a state of "reality." We assume the reality of the world, and thus our ability to study it and formulate hypothesis that "explain it" but if we want to start special pleading about explainations we don't like and just asserting the unproved nature of origins to hedge bets on those we do then we cant' be too picky when the other guy calls our bluff and says "now it's the skeptic's burden of proof." Why? Because presumption is on the side of explainations. Science assumes we need them. No one ever hears a scientist say "we don't need to explain that, let's forget it." The problem is atheists fool themselves. They demand science so much when they need to reach back to philosophy (Kant--the question about brute facts begins with Kant) it's reaching beyond science to philosohpy, which most atheists condemn anyway. There's a loss of credibility there. More importantly, they have already promised explainations then special plead and say "we don't need them in this area." Hey, for religious experiences we need them and they must be naturalistic!
The idea of "the universe just is," in philosophical terms is called a "brute fact." It means there is no reason it' just there. The problem with brute facts is that philosophers usually avoid them excusable they are meaningless, they are provoking and they beg the question. They are not satisfying. As stated, the explainable has been established as the proper procedure for dealing with unknowns, yet in this one reach of the metaphysical nature of being they are willing to just let it go. It's a true case of special pleading. The unsatisfying nature of the brute fact is set off against the basic intuitive sense of being meaning one finds in the question of existence. Meaning is part of the depth of being and we sense the depth of being in even asking the question "where did it all come from?" The issue seems like an arbitrary stand off, either there is a reason or not. Either there is meaning or not. We can't really tell why think there is when the only thing that we can be sure of is the blind random existence of what is? The scietnific evidence does suggest bind random accident and evolution.
The problem is the brute fact in terms of ICR or universal origin is just made up of contingent things. The states of bang and crunch that make up the oscillating universe, for example, consist of constituat parts such as space-time, gravitational field, and naturalistic things. Naturalistic things are contingent. To posit the whole totality of all universal meaning, eternal truth, the nature of all that is upon a meaningless happenstance that just happens to be, while everything else about existence requires explaining and implies something greater than itself (such as truth) creates a state of dissatisfaction. If we are disatisfied metpahyically we have the right to question that state. ICR and brute facts don't answer the questions we ask. The atheist is content to lose the phenomena and pretend there is no meaning and no answers but in so doing is no better off or no more intellectually justified than the faithful making excuses about "no one knows the mind of God." There is a deciding factor or two and they are a prori part of the basic fabric of the question. There's an aspect to the nature of the contingent happenstance that makes up the brute fact of existence that suggests depth of being in a greater sense.
The eternal and necessary nature being suggests the distinction between being as a brute fact and being as depth. The very mechanism the atheist seeks to ply aging final cause is the disproof of the brutish nature of fact. To explain this I must explain the difference in my CA and that of others. For example the Kalam argument is a version of the CA. This says anything that beings to exist needs a cause. That argument, therefore, turns upon the nature cause. Thus arguments about Kalam revolve around efficient cause in nature, and thus ICR (if allowed to stand) is a valid answer. ICR contains cause even though it means an endless series of meaningless cause the whole of which cannot be explained, our own particular universe has its cause then in the previous big crutch and it's blowing back out as a big bang. My version of the CA, however, the Argument from Cosmological Necessity doesn't turn upon causes but upon attributes of God. The argument turns upon demonstrating that the attributes that make up the God concept already exist and are known to us as aspects of reality, thus it's just a matter of understanding their relation to being we can see that they spell out something deep inherent meaning in being that disproves brute fact. After all if being has a deep inherent meaning it can't be a brute fact, that is a prori truth. The deciding factor is the eternal nature of being. There is another version of the argument that turns upon the eternal nature of being.
The reason it's not a moot stand off between the two concepts is because the ICR itself has to be eternal. the individual aspects of the regression that move from one universe to another are contingent and temporal, but the whole string in so far as it must stretch back eternally is both eternal and infinite. Both states evoke the sense of the numinous. That means it's a fit object of worship because anything that evokes the sense of the numinous is a fit object of worship since that state is the very reason religion exists in the firs place. That's what worship is, its the nature being moved by the sense that there is something profound and special in being. The atheist protest that "the universe just happens to be" is self negating becuase it's eternal and infinite nature suggest the quality of the numinous and are thus more in and of themselves than they perpetual to be. That in itself is depth of being. In seeking to posit the whole they actually must suggest something that triggers religious devotion and thus prove the depth nature of being.
Atheists logically should have to support the concept the universe moving from a state of absolute nothing. This is because the ICR just moves the problem back eternally but never really confronts the issue of origins anyway. Since the atheists affirm the idea of brute fact, meaningless accident, irrational existence, and so on they should actually just take their lumps in abandoning ratinoal explanations. This is not all there, however, the issue is not a done deal. We can't just leap from eternal being triggers the sense of the numinous to "therefore God is real." We have to deal with the other attitudes. Even though they all actually flow out of the eternal nature of being, necessity is the more independent one of the lot. The attrubites I emphasis are:
ground of being
I am also challenged by atheists constantly to include "consciousness" or "personal being." There is no necessity in theology to assume God is personal. Even though I do assume so that is not a priamry quality because other things are personal as well. I'm concerned with the qualitaties that make God God and that God can't share with anything else. Whatever is eternal is by definition necessary (at least ontologically so) because it's not dependent and can't cease to exist. Nothing else really is necessary in the sense that God is (totally, no nature as the effect of a prior cause), so these are primary qualities. If there is eternal necessary being then by definition it is the ground of being. That would only be logical to assume that it is the first cause since nothing else is on a par with it ti would be the best candidate to assume that all else has it's origin in that which is eternal and necessary.
That brings us to the issue of necessity. This is a very important issue because the whole about ICR includes a large part about necessity vs. contingency. That will be discussed on Monday.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Recently I was posting on a message board and I made the remark that the search for God is in the heart. An atheist responded by saying "I don't make decisions based upon emotionalism." That response made me angry becasue it's so pretensions. The very same guy, Mr. Rational thought will turn right around and wail in the most emotional tirade about how deeply he hates the Bible and hates God for telling him what to do. The Audacity of this God person! Atheism has a strong tendency to reduce everything deep, complex, and richly textured to the most banal they can get. They constantly reduce "life transformation," the upshot my religious experience arguments to "gett'n happy." Once when going on about the empirical scientific studies from academic peer reviewed journals an atheist said this was ministers emailing their people and asking them to report on how they are "gett'n happy." This reminds me of how everything the atheists have going, their entire project is nothing more than an attempt to hide the phenomena and reduce everything to such a truncated view of reality that all one has left to turn to is their shallow and simplistic view.
They do this by mocking and ridiculing the concepts of depth, being, and faith that are required to believe. They do it by arguing that the only form of knowledge is science, the only valid scinece is empirical evidence, the only valid form of empirical evidence that which agree with their views (the religious experience studies are empiric and scientific but they mock and ridicule them as "ministers emailing their flock." It makes sense that they would think of "the heart" as "emotionalism." That's becuase their greatest fear is "the subjective." That is, feelings. they are terribly afraid of feelings. That's becuase if they allow themselves to feel they will be convicted of their sin. I've seen atheists actually deny the concept of "the heart." They have ridiculed it as "the heart pumps blood." So the whole idea of an inner life is abhorant to them. That's probably because if they dealt with the inner life they would have no choice but to be convicted and believe. It is entirely essential that the believer cultivate the inner life. Inner is what faith in God is all about. There is no real point in belief in God without the inner life. Before discussing the nature of inner life let me remove the charge of emotionalism.
First the concept of the heart is not ridiculous, not based upon magic, not difficult to prove. The idea of the "heart" is merely based upon the Greek term "cardia." The Greeks did not see the brain as the seat of the intellect they saw the chest as the place of the intellect. This is because when one feels emotions deeply one can feel a palpable constriction in the chest, the pulse races, the blood pumps faster and that gives the link between the blood pump in the chest, the Greek term "cardia" which we adopted to refer to the pump but the Greeks used to refer to the "inner being" as the seat of feelings and emotions. The Biblical term heart, which atheists confuse with spirit or soul and thus react to indignantly (as they react to everything) is just the will, the desire, the sense of conviction in deep seated ideas we care about. Secondly, this is not "emotionalism." There's a lot ore to "the inner life" than just being emotional. What most people mean when they say "emotionalism" is not an organized philosphy that says based decisions upon feelings. The term is a pejorative destined to mock and ridicule anyone whose decision making process is other than the atheist ideology. There is much more to the "inner life" than just emotion. Existentialism and the concepts of self authentication are included in "inner life." The intellect is part of the inner life. Going about the business of the intellectual life style, reading, thinking, mediating, this is all part of inner life.
No one actually bases decisions upon raw feelings, as an example of inner life. Immature people make rash decisions based upon raw feelings, but that's not the aim of Christian life. When we speak of "the heart" in connection with decision making, such as faith based decisions, we are talking about conviction. Conviction can be borne of deep intellectual analysis, logic, and deliberation as much as it can "feelings." Feelings per se are not necessarily 'emotionalism' either. One doesn't make decisions based upon "I hate X therefore I will not do X." Actually feelings can play different roles in decision making and belief but they must always be grounded in reason. The most important feeling in relation to faith is a sense of conviction that is beyond a mere physical sensation or emotion. Conviction is reducible to just emotion. Conviction stems from the deep seated assurance that a course is correct, that comes from reasoning it out as well as determining actual "feelings."
Atheists will try to mock and ridicule the notion of the inner life. This is because they mock and ridicule anything that doesn't stack up to their ideology about truncated reality. They must collapse reality to eliminate possibles, so one doesn't seek God.the way they do this is to prescribe only one aspect aspect of reality as real, that which is empirically derived from scientific observation. Now a good deal of empirical scientific data disproves atheism but of they can't allow that. Evidence which does not support their conclusions they reduce to their canon of prescribed reality by indicting it's scientific nature in all manner of bogus ways. They have to create the idea that only that which supports the ideology is valid. To do this they cling to the surface of reality. Things are only what can be gleaned form surface level facts of existence of physical objects and nothing else. There is no depth of being, they must create confusion about the very concept of being. They will call it abstraction and say it's pretend and so forth. Just as they label faith as "pretending" and what have you. Everything feeds back into the central thesis; reality is surface level only. That is the level of reality for them because that's what their knowledge controls. Anything deep requires thought, and thought is liberating. If one begins to think about reality and what depth means one begins to unravel the mythology that says only transcribe scientifically derived things can be in existence. To unravel that is to step onto the road to belief and they must avoid that at all costs.
For the believer the situation is just the opposite. Not that the believer needs to pretend, quite the contrary. Pretense in belief is deception. Faith is not about pretending it's about seeking truth. If we are not seeking the TRUTH with a capitals we are not living in faith. We are not cultivating the inner life if we ware not seeking truth. Even if that means digging up some deeply rooted and cherished misconceptions we still have to do it. That statement is not some radical prescription I got form Paul Tillich, it's a statement I got from very conservative A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God. The situation is the opposite of that described as "atheist tactics" above because it means expecting that there is more to reality than meets the eye and that finding it will entails a search based upon global knowledge, not just one method. My "global" in don't mean the occult I mean both science and philosophy as well as a phenomenological approach and mystical experience. The mystical is not someone one can control so that should come under the heading "phenomenology." A phenomenological approach would work best with mystical experience; allow the phenomena to suggest it's own categories.
The inner life requires cultivation. We can't just expect to stop with belief, nor can we imagine that constant argument and constant apologetic is spiritual nourishment. The ability to do a sustained apologetically debate requires a strong inner life, it not a source of inner life. That's not say that doing apologetic on a regular basis doesn't' help build the inner life. Yet it can't all be oriented around arguing about God's existence. The primary aspect of innerl ife that is the water for the roots of the plant of faith is prayer. I'm going to start mixing metaphors here but prayer is the nourishment of relationship with God and relationship with God is the foundation upon winch one is able to conduct a successful apologetically approach. We have to draw a line in the sand and ignore the atheists, forget the arguments, move away from that and go into your own space and deal with God. We have to do this every day. You don't have to get down on your knees and shut our eyes real tight. You don't have to speak in a stilted King James fashion, you don't have to even do discursive inner monologue, just focus on God.
I find that the thing that works best is the old fashioned prayer and praise. That may sound incongruous with all my high and mighty liberal theology, but the hold over from my old charismatic days is that prayer and praise works best to bring in the sense of God's presence and open one up to the possibilities of God. There's no formula, once might experiment and find what really excites one on an individual level. For me it's praise thing. It's very repetitious but singing works. The older hymns are more meaningful, they have more concepts in them. Repetition is good too though because it's like a mantra, enables focus. Meditating upon the presence of God is important. When you feel a sense of presence however slight, dwell on it, think about it, cultivate the contact with it. Study the Bible ever day and pray every day. Prayer is not a list of wants. There's a time in prayer for presenting petitions. First get into the spirit, praise God and mediate on God until you feel close to the divine and then present wants when you feel led to. We should all pray at lest two hours a day as a minimal effort. Do I do that? NO! Sometimes I do. It goes in phases. I went through a phase a couple of times when I prayed four hours in row every day. That's not even accomplishment there are people who pray much more than that.
It's a discipline, the firsrt time you try it will be hard to make five minutes. Do it at a regular time every day and increase by a few minutes every day. There are endless schemes for Bible study. Don't just look up answers to atheist attacks that's as bad as doing the atheist thing and only reading it to find problems. Read what speaks to you and dweel on it. Meditate on the ideas the thoughts. There are endless books on all manner of meditation. Meditation doesn't always mean eastern style with mantra. Discursive reasoning can be meditation. Cartesian style meditation is through development of ideas. Mark out a passage, look up every word, read a long way around before and after to get the context. Ask basic questions about context, what's the point of this? Why was it written? Who is it speaking to? There are tons of study guide things on the bible one can find. For internet message board people who are arguing with atheists one of the major hang up is going to be overcoming the doubt tape atheists have constantly tried to imprint on your brain. You are going to have to learn to respect the word of God all over again. I recommend that book Models of Revelation by Avery Dulles. That's not a sprituiaized study guide has nothing to do with bible study. It's on the nature of academic work about the nature of Biblical revelation. It's important because it will sharpen one's sense understanding about the nature of the Bible and enable one to endure the problems encounter in the Bible. One of the major helps it bestows is in understanding that it doesn't matter if there are problems in the Bible. Problems is not a reason to trash the Bible the way the atheist have attempted. The intellectual and philosophical approach si part of the inner life.
For the average person the spiritual aspects are going to be more accessible than the intellectual. One can educate oneself academically but there is no substitute for learning in a university environment. People guy reference books for bible study, works like Strong's Concorde. That stuff has gotten so popular it's much more available online than in hard copy. There's no substitute for taking Greek. Those references books are biased by doctrine and they are all written by conservatives and biased by their doctrines. Take some Greek classes and use the secular Greek Lexicon of Classical Greek (Lidell and Scott) along with Strong's. It's hard to give yourself a college education. It's a good idea to take of seminary classes if you are lucky enough to be in a town with a seminary. I really don't understand why atheists refuse to study. They would be more effective as atheists. That makes me think their real purpose is just emotional (ironically sense they are afraid of being emotional) they are just looking for a place to vent.
The perennial danger is always deception. The potential of making a mistake probably scares a lot of people off from spiritual life. One must stay grounded. Get grounded then stay grounded. We do that in three ways: fellowship, Bible study, prayer, in reverse order. "Fellowship" has huge drawbacks. Churches are rough. We are social creatures and social support is necessary. Just a small group can be a big help. Look for a place where they are not condmening or legalistic and where they treat people right and seeking God is their top priority. Don't fear mistakes so terribly because Grace covers a multitude of sins.
Don't let atheist destroy your faith. Don't allow mocking and ridiucle to discourse you from seeking God. There are intellectual answers to every intellectual issue. The real issues that kill faith are daily living issues for that we need to be strong in a daily living sort of way. That's what prayer strengthens us in. The intellectual life takes care of itself if you cultivate it, and the inner life includes the intellectual life. The spirit and the intellectual are not contradictions. The two can be integrated and working on the integration is a great project for the inner life. It's something we work on every day and it's a major focus of our lives. It gives us meaning and fulfillment. I am reminded of the phrase at the end Voltaire's Candide. He says several times, "we must tend our garden." The context is speaking of a literal garden where several aging and starving castaways have wound up living together and pulling for mutual survival after a life of carnage and hardship. The phrase is usually taken as a metaphor, mainly it's the last thing said in the book and repeated. The metaphor implies the cultivation of an inner life, or a life of the mind just as one tends and cultivates a garden. It must be tended and cultivated every day, this is what keeps up alive, as the physical garden kept Candide and his friends alive at the end. Don't let atheists stop you from tending your garden.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
This is an old review I did way back in 07, I'mdoing it now as a tribute to the Pope's visit. I would have done I tomarrow (film fest Friday) but the Pope will be gone by then.
Sunday Night I could not sleep. I decided to go into the tv room after tossing and turning. My brother was just going to bed, it was the wee small hours. There, just coming on, "In the Shoes of the Fisherman" a film which had been critically acclaimed in its day(1968). I couldn't stop watching. My parents took my brother and I to see it when it was just out, and it was consider a very important movie with some of the great actors of the time.Anthony Quinnplayed Kiril Lakota who becomes Kiril I, the first non Italian Pope in 400 years. I recall our teacher in fifth grade talking about it in school. It made a big impact because it dealt with the premier fear of the time, the threat of nuclear war.
Oskar Werner played David Telemond, a young radical priest patterned after Tielhard de Chardin.Werner won an Oscar for the part, he always reminded me of a young William Buckley, William Buckley Jr. jr. In fact Buckley was pretty young back then so he was more like his kid brother than his son. In supporting roles were Lawrence Oliver, one of the greatest actors of all time, Directed by Michael Anderson. It was a fine film, perhaps a great one, and totally forgotten. Greatness is always forgotten. The film strangely foreshadowed real life as the first non Italian pope in 400 years was chosen from a communist country. He had been a political prisoner for twenty years. Chosen because he was a Russian, would be willing to stand up to them, and thus acceptable to the West, but had experience dealing with the Soviets and understood their thinking. At the time he is chosen a crisis is percipient between The Soviet Union and China. In real life at the time these two communist comrade states were having boarder disputes, shots were fired people were killed. In the film, China is in a deep famine and three provinces are starving. The Soviets are saying they will be at war in a two months. They appeal to the pope to act as go between with the West and try to procure food to stave off the famine. China has a huge list of demands for both the USSR and the West. They are not willing to take aid because they don't want to come under the thumb of Western imperialism again, and they suspect that the West will make heavy demands. The Pope steps in and agrees to empty the Vatican coffers to buy the grain for China. This will leave the Vatican broke. The Church hierarchy opposes it but the new pope stands his ground. He announces the move at his coronation in St. Peter's Square, which is filled with a half million people. He says something like "we will do as Christ would do and empty our wealth to feed the starving people." The Crowd goes wild cheering and gives him a great ovation. The Film ends as a slight smile comes across Quinn's face while the people of the world calibrate, the Church is finally doing what it should have done in the middle ages.
The subplot that develops with Telemond, the Oskar Werner character, involves a hearing to determine the soundness of his teaching, and eventually he is silenced.That means he can't publish his works. He could quite and publish them without the blessing of the church but if he wants the blessing of the Church he can't have it. The hearing is brought on by the new Pope who wants Telemond as a private top adviser. He knows the young man is one of the most brilliant theologians of the Church and wants to bring him into the inner circle. But he has a reputation as a radical and his views are suspect, the Pope wants him cleared as soon as possible. But the young priest can't do enough to screw up his own cause. Every time he clears up a seeming unorthodoxy clarifying his position, he then makes more confusing statements that sound even more radical. At one point Leo McKern(Rumpole of the Baily). Cardinal Leone, asks "do you believe that Christ is the son of God?" "certainly I do" he says, "Christ is the center like the hub of a wheel where the spokes meet, he is a microcosm of the whole universe." They all look puzzled and ask "do you believe that Christ is the savior." "certainly I do, but if I did not, I would still believe in the world.. I have a vision of the world that I can't give up. If I did not believe in God I would believe in the world." He goes on to say something to the effect that "Christ is the world." Needless to say they silence him. It's amazing to see Hollywood try to sound like radical theology without doing violence to the ideas of de Chardin.Telemond makes it easy on them and dies of a brain tumor shortly after that. Tielhard de Chardin also died soon after he was silenced and never had the chance to prove himself.
I love this film because it's the very heart and soul of the 60s, it shows the period when theology was the most exciting and really meant something in the world. There will never be a movie like this again. It was a product of a kind of Hollywood that doesn't' exist anymore.It was made at the very tail end of the old Hollywood withthe star machine sysetm, the Hollywood built by Meyer and MGM, just before the "new breed" of films such "Easy Rider" began to emerge. This was the same year "Bonnie and Clyde" came out, that marks the beginning of the new film making. This was A Hollywood that felt duty bound to be somewhat reverential of the Catholic church. It was a Hollywood that made films of great pageantry enacted the world stage. A Hollywood that made socially important pictures about big ideas. It addressed the spirit of the times, fear of nuclear war, the sense that we lived in a very troubled era, and great crises were unfolding every day. I think the world is now so jaded, and so used to that feeling that it doesn't phase us. it's like going to the moon. the first time we did it was amazing and epoch making, the second time it was not so exciting after that the whole idea was rather ho hum. We still live in dangerous times, and great crises are always unfolding, but somehow we've gotten used to it. The Church is still important but it doesn't seem so. We have been brainwashed into thinking of the world as so totally secularized we don't think of the Pope as a major actor on the world stage.
Another amazing thing about this movie is that at this time liberal theology was known to the public. Most people probably did not know any thing that Tielhard de Chardin said, but they knew there were radical liberal theologians who said things like "God is dead" and for so forth. Teilhard was not a God is dead movement theologian but that was the general sense of "crazy radical priests." Liberal theology was known to the public and the basis of the religious establishment was not the moral majority. The fundamentalists changed all of that and their message came to so totally dominate that most people have no ideology that there is liberal theology. The Church doesn't seem to be a major player anymore either.
It's a fine film, I highly recommend it. Two thumbs up.
Friday, September 18, 2015
knight (Max Von Sydow) playing chess with death
The Seventh Seal
The knight playing chess with Death.
This movie, from 1957, is Ingar Bergman's greatest film, and considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time.
The story is about a knight returning home from the crusades. He finds the land ravaged by plague and religious fanatics. On his journey, he is visited by Death, who agrees to let the knight live if he can beat him at a game of chess.
The following is taken from the script where the knight mistakenly thinks he is confessing to a priest, but it is Death who is listening. It expresses the existential struggle of this knight searching for truth.
Both the dialogue and the synopsis below are from the link I link to below "Chivalry Now"
A knight tries to pray along the seaside, but is unable to. He is troubled by the requirements of faith. Although he has gone to the Holy Land to fight in the Crusade for God, all he saw there was death and injustice, and men of twisted faith. He asks himself, "where is God? What is the meaning of existence without Him? Where can I find any sense to life?" He is an idealist who is troubled. He is no longer set in the ideals given to him, but questions everything to find a greater truth. What troubled him most is that there seems to be no idealized truth to grasp onto, and this leaves him searching in despair.
The squire is more down to earth, the disenchanted intellectual who demands that everyone else see the world from his disenchantment. He has not only lost his ideals (if he ever had them), but lost the desire to find something greater than what he sees. He is the existentialist. Basically he resents his station, that of serving the more idealistic knight.
Death accepts the challenge of playing the game of chess, giving the knight a chance to continue search for God, and dedicate his life to doing one good act. One wonders if we are not all playing chess with Death, postponing the inevitable, which might be waiting for us around the next corner.
The married couple, the actors, represent a healthy relationship, despite their obvious hardships. They love each other, and their son. The father tells his wife that their son will be a great acrobat, that he will accomplish the incredible (keeping the ball suspended in mid-air). He then explains that the trick would be impossible for him or his wife, but not necessarily for Mikael. In this statement, he expresses hope for the future, and disavows limitations on the next generation. There is a simple idealism expressed in this. We live and then we die, allowing evolution to produce something better. We should facilitate this process. That the actor sees visions suggests that he is in tune with his own mystical experiences, which transcends the rituals of religion.
The squire has great disrespect for priests, whom he sees as taking advantage of common people, using fear as a tool. He degrades those religious idealists who created the idea of a Holy Crusade. The thought of religious fanatics beating themselves out of repentance frightens him.
The man who steals from the dead was previously a student of theology who proselytized going to the Crusade. He is now a thief, and attempts to rape the woman who discovers his treachery. The squire believes that this is the natural progression of religious leaders. The man belittles and threatens the actor, hating him for his simple authenticity. He later dies of the plague.
The burning of the witch demonstrates how our belief in God and angels and the devil are ultimately based on nothing we can see or touch. There is life, and there is death. The witch who believes in the devil is obviously insane. Are the priests who condemn her, and the soldiers who kill her much different? The knight experiences anguish at her death, as the squire points out that only emptiness awaits her.
The actor who has the affair with the blacksmith's wife feigns his own death. Before stabbing himself with the fake knife, he states that he will leave the unreality of his life, and take on the reality of a corpse. This is a powerful statement of existential thought. The living person is not static; he is always creating himself, with every choice and direction that he takes. This is likened to "unreality." The dead corpse is, in comparison, a fixed object, without conscious potential. It's reality does not change. It is dead, not alive.
The knight distracts Death long enough for the married couple to escape. This is his good deed, and the answer to what he was looking for. Our purpose is to preserve life for the future. Other than that, we cannot be sure of anything. Even Death seems pleased by the knight's pleasure. The knight asks Death for what he knows about the mysteries of life. Death can tell him nothing. It appears that Death is more of a reality than God.
The ending is very interesting. Everyone dies, except for the couple and their baby, who have escaped. The knight begs his unseen God for mercy, while the squire complains that he is wasting his breath. They both die, but who is the one who contributed the most to life? It is the discouraged idealist who seeks for truth. His life had more meaning in that he saved the lives of others
Bergmann was an atheist, the son of a minister and Chaplin to the King of Sweden. He produced a huge body of works in the 50's and 60's and set the tone for films in that decade and beyond. In such films as "Hour of the Wolf," "The seventh Seal," "Wild Strawberries," "Virgin Spring," "Crys and whispers," Bergmann wrestled with the oceanic topics of life, aunxt, meaning, the existence of God, the anxiety of being human.
watching those films makes up some of the happiest memories of my youth. For me he will always be the symbol of the greatness of art, the discovery of life, and the search for ultimate meaning.My two favorite films of all time are Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. The only other director I place on the same level is Kurosawa.
Bergman is one of the finest examples of the style of atheism into which I fitted when I was young. Searching, pondering the great questions, an existentialist who is never satisfied with conventional answers. The thing about Bergman as an atheist is that he's the diametrical opposite of Dawkins. He wasn't arrogant about his unbelief, although he was a rebel of theater and film making, originally known as "one of the angry young men" of early 50s. He knew he was great and was very arrogant in the arts, but in terms of eternity and the transcendent, he deals with religion with great respect. Even when he mocks religion he's not mocking the people for believing it, and he never makes a mockery of the search.He's still searching himself. He's like someone saying "If you find anything I would still like to know, but I don't think you are going to." He doesn't handle religion with kid gloves, its obvious he thought most of it was nonsense, but he never degrades the sense of wonder at the holy or the luminosity or realization of our need to seek the ultimate.
"The Seventh Seal" has all of these features. Nothing is more of a slap in the face to blind obedience and unthinking conformity of the religious history of the West than Bergman's scenes such as, burning the girl at the steak, and the girl who has faith Satan will save her suddenly realizes "there's no body there to save me and I'm going to die now." The superstition of the guy smearing the blood and bile of a black dog on the walls to keep the plague away. These are stinging rebuttals to traditional organized religion. The Circus performers, especially the husband, child-like and innocent, happy, only concerned with the happiness of his family and his art, represent those for whom faith is real. The husband sees the Virgin Mary everywhere and at times we see her tripping by in the background while no one else notices.
The sincere seeker is never berated by Bergman, but human frailty is never masked. The old actor is always seeking other men's wives to court, the young woodman's wife is never faithful, the three are always seeking to do each other harm. Yet at the same time this mockery, it's a fares.
The Knight is a seeker but he's also afraid. He seeks certainty. He's not seeking the infinite or the divine necessarily but certainty as to what's true. He confesses this to one whom he takes for a priest but it's really death in disguise. This is how death learns the combination of knight and bishop he's been uses and then beats him. The confession made to death is about his need for certainty and his fear of not finding it. So death is saying in a sense, "I'm the only certainty, and you only find it after you come with me."
Here's an excerpt of the confession to death, on Chivalry Now.
ANTONIUS: I want to confess, as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror. I see my face, and feel loathing and horror. My indifference to men has shut me out. I live now in a world of ghosts, a prisoner in my dreams.Bergman is an odd mixture, he was cutting edge sixties rebel in the arts, worldly, sophisticated, atheist, intellectual. Yet he was sensitive to the search for God and the desire to find truth. His films are paradoxical as well. The film is a combination of Mel Brooks camp humor, with high school play where the drama teacher has made the production very stagy and it's all shot on home movie. There are times when the production seems so rough you can swear it is a home movie. Then you go to the coffee shop after and talk about the existence of God for three hours because you realize you have seen a great film and it has transported you into the search. His films are also paradoxical as he was, they convey this greatness. To appear so cheap and amateur to leave one with the sense of having seen a truly great work of art it has to be truly great.
DEATH: Yet you do not want to die.
ANTONIUS: Yes I do.
DEATH: What are you waiting for?
DEATH: You want a guarantee?
ANTONIUS: Call it what you will. Is it so hard to conceive of God with one's senses? Why must He hide in a mist of vague promises and invisible miracles? How are we to believe the believers when we don't believe ourselves? What will become of us who want to believe, but cannot? And what of those who neither will nor can believe? Why can I not kill God within me? Why does He go on living in a painful, humiliating way? I want to tear Him out of my heart. But He remains a mocking reality which I cannot get rid of. I want knowledge. Not belief. Not surmise. But knowledge. I want God to put out His hand, show His face, speak to me. But He is silent. I cry to Him in the dark, but there seems to be no one there.
DEATH: Perhaps there is no one there.
ANTONIUS: Then life is a senseless terror. No man can live with Death and know that everything is [for] nothing.
DEATH: Most people think neither of Death nor nothingness.
ANTONIUS: Until they stand on the edge of life, and see the Darkness.
The major Characters dance over the hill with death, they all die of the plague but all we see is that they meet death, then they all dance away with him. They are spied by the only survives of the traveling companions, the hippie-like performers and their young son, who watch them dance over the horizon into eternity.