Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Genesis creation story

Image result for epic of Gilgamesh

I have been asked to give my views on Genesis: "Jesse:" says  "I would be more than happy to see you spell out in an article how you make sense of the Genesis text." I am not going to go verse by verse and explicate or do close reading and exegesis. I'l;  limit my remarks to the creation story and just deal with it in general terms. 

First I think it is important to discuss my view of Biblical inspiration. I have long and thought out discussion on that topic one might care to read it: "The Nature of Biblical Revelation."[1]  I highly recommend a book which we red in seminary this has been a major influence upon my view of the nature of Biblical revelation, Models of Revelation by Avery Dulles[2] To briefly summarize, I  don't  believe in Inerrancy. I don't feel duty bound to take the Genesis creation story as a literal historical account, I use to think if I take it symbolically I could both respect the divine revelation aspect and include scientific fact. In  studying the nature of ancient world mythology it became apparent to me that reading the story as a highly symbolic allegory is an unnecessary step. If you really compare ancient world creation myths to Genesis, the latter is very different in some respects but it's really just another version of the same thing. 

Now that statement could be misleading, I can hear some people  asking "hey it is in the Bible, why would God include a myth in his word?" The Bible is diverse. There is more than one method of inspiration used. In cases where God tells people directly "say this..." those people usually say "thus says the Lord." When it doesn't say that I assume it's a more subtle form of inspiration,Since God did not give the ancient authors a scientific understanding of creation I assume he used their own impetus to write and guided then into truths but did not reform their total understanding  of the world. So those truths are encoded in myth,  

The ancient world as a whole thought in mythological terms, Hebrews were no exception. True they knew God and they had first hand insights of God they were being groomed to function as the lunch pad for the Messianic ministry of Christ, in the days of Moses when Gensis was written  they thought mythological and represented God within a framework of mythological concepts. I am going to post here selections from that essay I link to above I can't do better than that at expelling my view, I urge the reader to read the entire essay. In those sections I talk about the Genesis creation story.

 The major reasons for understanding the Genesis account as mythological include: 

(1) They follow the same outline in story development,.

That point is documented by Gaalyah Cornfeld [3]

(2) There's a firmmamemt in both sotires

Firmamanet was the ancient word idea of the structure of the world It;s a dead giveaway that the Genesis story is borrowed from the ancient story. It as a dome over the world with water on both sides. Trape doors in it allowed rain and snow.

(3)Animals talk, snakes walk

Ear marks of mythology

A lot of fellow Christians will assume I'm not a real believer, but the innumeracy position is really form the 19th century it was not the view of the Church fathers

from my essay on Biblical revelation:

The most radical view will be that of mythology in the Bible. This is a difficult concept for most Christians to grasp, because most of us are taught that "myth" means a lie, that it's a dirty word, an insult, and that it is really debunking the Bible or rejecting it as God's word. The problem is in our understanding of myth. "Myth" does not mean lie; it does not mean something that is necessarily untrue. It is a literary genre—a way of telling a story. In Genesis, for example, the creation story and the story of the Garden are mythological. They are based on Babylonian and Sumerian myths that contain the same elements and follow the same outlines. But three things must be noted: 1) Myth is not a dirty word, not a lie. Myth is a very healthy thing. 2) The point of the myth is the point the story is making--not the literal historical events of the story. So the point of mythologizing creation is not to transmit historical events but to make a point. We will look more closely at these two points. 3) I don't assume mythology in the Bible out of any tendency to doubt miracles or the supernatural, I believe in them. I base this purely on the way the text is written.

The purpose of myth is often assumed to be the attempt of unscientific or superstitious people to explain scientific facts of nature in an unscientific way. That is not the purpose of myth. A whole new discipline has developed over the past 60 years called "history of religions." Its two major figures are C.G. Jung and Marcea Eliade. In addition to these two, another great scholarly figure arises in Carl Kerenyi. In addition to these three, the scholarly popularizer Joseph Champbell is important. Champell is best known for his work The Hero with A Thousand Faces. This is a great book and I urge everyone to read it. Champbell, and Elliade both disliked Christianity intensely, but their views can be pressed into service for an understanding of the nature of myth. Myth is, according to Champbell a cultural transmission of symbols for the purpose of providing the members of the tribe with a sense of guidance through life. They are psychological, not explanatory of the physical world. This is easily seen in their elaborate natures. Why develop a whole story with so many elements when it will suffice as an explanation to say "we have fire because Prometheus stole it form the gods?" For example, Champell demonstrates in The Hero that heroic myths chart the journey of the individual through life. They are not explanatory, but clinical and healing. They prepare the individual for the journey of life; that's why in so many cultures we meet the same hero over and over again; because people have much the same experiences as they journey though life, gaining adulthood, talking their place in the group, marriage, children, old age and death. The hero goes out, he experiences adventures, he proves himself, he returns, and he prepares the next hero for his journey. We meet this over and over in mythology.

In Kerenyi's essays on a Science of Mythology we find the two figures of the maiden and the Krone. These are standard figures repeated throughout myths of every culture. They serve different functions, but are symbolic of the same woman at different times in her life. The Krone is the enlightener, the guide, the old wise woman who guides the younger into maidenhood. In Genesis we find something different. Here the Pagan myths follow the same outline and contain many of the same characters (Adam and Adapa—see, Cornfeld Archaeology of the Bible 1976). But in Genesis we find something different. The chaotic creation story of Babylon is ordered and the source of creation is different. Rather than being emerging out of Tiamot (chaos) we find "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Order is imposed. We have a logical and orderly progression (as opposed to the Pagan primordial chaos). The seven days of creation represent perfection and it is another aspect of order, seven periods, the seventh being rest. Moreover, the point of the story changes. In the Babylonian myth the primordial chaos is the ages of creation, and there is no moral overtone, the story revolves around other things. This is a common element in mythology, a world in which the myths happen, mythological time and place. All of these elements taken together are called Myths, and every mythos has a cosmogony, an explanation of creation and being (I didn't say there were no explanations in myth.). We find these elements in the Genesis story, Cosmogony included. But, the point of the story becomes moral: it becomes a story about man rebelling against God, the entrance of sin into the world. So the Genesis account is a literary rendering of pagan myth, but it stands that myth on its head. It is saying God is the true source of creation and the true point is that life is about knowing God.

We do not need a history book of God's creation, Science when it tells us about evolution is telling us of God's creation,From Genesis we lean theological truth God created all there is Rebellion against God brings death We are fallen we are given redemption promised to Eve. See Romans 5. I believe in the historicity of Jesus and in his saving grace,

[1] Joeseph Hinman, "The nature of Biblical Revelation," The religious A prtiori, (2011)

the view I hold to is called dialectical retrieval.

[2] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985.

[3] Gaalyah Cornfeld and  David N. Freedman, Archaeology of the Bible: Book by Book. Ne York:HarperCollinsm 1976

Sunday, October 27, 2019

God does not do Eternal Conscious Torment

Image result for Gustave Doré's (1832-1883) illustrations of Dante's Inferno
Gustove Dore's images of Devin comedy

I do not believe that the Bible actually teaches that hell is a place of eternal conscious torment. By that I mean, hell is not a place where people who sin and disbelieve are sent to be punished and tortured. I don't believe that God would torture anyone. I certainly don't believe that hell is a place where one is conscious eternally. While I do think that hell is judgment I don't think it's a place where people are conscous eternally of being punished.  I think first of all "going to hell" Is a symbol of spiritual death. That it's a judgement in after life, but rather than leading to eternal conscious torment it leads to the total annihilation of existence. I don't believe that everyone is automatically saved.

My thesis is this: (1) The Bible uses the conept of hell as a symbol of judgment and spiritual death.

(2) It is clearly talking about something, some negative consequence from "hell," but that is not a place of literal fire and brimstone, rather, the "place" of torment is a symbol of spiritual death that comes from being judged.

(3) Judgment comes from rejecting God and closing the heart to truth, it is not something God ordained to befall the rebellious, but an automatic separation that we initiate and we have the power to change while we live, by responding to God's love. The more we turn our backs on God and pout the deeper we get into sepeartion and God cannot do anything about it if we are determined to separate ourselves.

(4) When I say "God can't do anything about it," yes could have made the original set up different, but only by sacrificing other things, such as free will, which very important.

thus I am saying God is limited to logical necessity. He cannot make two contradictory states of affairs that truly contradict logically. Thus to have the valuable aspects of free will and moral decision making there must be consequences which we initiate through our rebellion and which God cannot change given the facts. Specifically I believe that those who reject God and die in separation from God cease to exist. That is fair and humane since that's what they expect anyway. The atheist chooses to cease to exist but in disbelieving he expects this anyway. One must agree it is certainly more compassionate than eteranl conscious torment. The talk we find of flames and darkness is symbolic. It is symbolic of the dread of being judged and condemned, and symbolic of spiritual death. I believe the Bible teaches this and we can examine the passages and see for ourselves.

First, there is no such set up in the OT. There is no situation such that good go to heaven to paradise to be rewarded and the bad go to hell to be tormented. This concept was unknown to the Hebrews. It is common knowledge that the Hebrews believed that everyone went to "the pit" or Sheol, which is translated "the grave." This is the idea of the realm of the dead. Everyone went there, not as punishment but that's just the way it was. There were exceptions such as prophets who were taken up to heaven to be with God, but basically no one expected the reward of  heaven or the punishment of hell. All that came in this life. The concept of hell came from the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks, imposed upon the Hebrew world in the intertestamental period, though the conquest of the Selucids who succeeded Alexander the Great. But the Hebrews found a corresponding symbol for "tortarus" the Greek Hell, in the valley of Gehenna where they burned trash outside Jerusalem. We know this was a symbol and symbolic use since it was a literal physical place in history. Secondly, I believe that hell is unjust and counter productive. Unjust because eternal torment as punishment for finite sin is just not fair. No amount of sanctimony can make it fair. God would not be unfair. Moreover, counterproductive because no one learns anything form hell. I see atheists all the time expressing the attitude "I'm going to hell anyway so what does it matter?" It's not a good idea and the more I think about it the more like the solution of a small child it seems. It is not taught in the bible so let's get to it and look at the scholarship and see. Some scholars understand Paul to teach that the wicked disappear. I find this in accord with views I had already come to before I found the Bankston article.  Carl L. Bankston, III:
Although the Christian message was, from the beginning, concerned primarily with eternal life, the theme of eternal punishment emerged from apocalyptic Judaism in the pages of the New Testament. Bernstein's reading of the New Testament, however, indicates a diversity of understandings of this punishment among the authors of the Scriptures. Saint Paul, emphasizing the positive teachings of the faith, did not express a clear vision of hell and seems to have implied that the wicked would eventually simply disappear. The authors of the synoptic Gospels, by contrast, describe pains of eternal damnation that balance the joys of eternal salvation.[1] 

My view is grounded in St. Paul. The main overview of Biblical teaching is one of diversity. There is no standarized set of explicit assumptions about the nature of heaven and hell. The ancinet Hebrews did not have that view.

Johnston demonstrates the Hebrew lack of biphercated afterlife:

Finally, Johnston address the question of an Afterlife, a late development in Israelite religious thought. Although Elijah and Elisha bring dead children back to life, Enoch “walked with God” and Elijah ascended in a flaming chariot, none of these were considered normal nor hoped for by others. The only clear references to bodily resurrection occur in Isa 26:19 and Daniel 12:2; extra-biblical references to resurrection (e.g., 2 Macc 7; 14; 1 Enoch 51:1; 61:5; 62:15, 4Q521:12, etc.) date from the 2nd century BCE on, which is consistent with the date of the two biblical texts. Despite afterlife beliefs in the surrounding nations, however, Johnston finds little evidence of direct influence and instead claims that Israel’s eventual belief in an afterlife is rooted in its experience of YHWH’s faithfulness and ongoing presence in their history, eventually understood as extending beyond death itself.[2]
This view is actually pretty standard among scholars. We turn to Bankston again:
I found Bernstein's close reading of the Hebrew Bible and of the Book of Enoch, the major piece of evidence outside the writings of Josephus of a late antique Jewish belief in punishment after death, more original than his review of Greco-Roman ideas. Much of the latter seems to rest on scholarly interpretations that have long been common currency. This may be a matter of familiarity, however, and Bernstein does bring together a great deal of material in a highly readable style, so that almost anyone will find some new ideas and information in the collection of pre-Christian beliefs assembled here.[3]

That says that punishment in after life was an idea the Jews had in late antiquity.We can see from the use of the terminology for "Hell" that the modern concepts with which fundamentalists are imbued and atheists are outraged are just no there. The only word used for "hell" in the OT is Sheol, which does not mean hell and does not correspond to Gehenna, it means "grave." It's death or the place of the dead, not necessarily a place of torment.

Bankston  again:

The most common term for the Underworld itself is Sheol but even it appears infrequently. The term never appears in third person narrative nor legal material, but only in first person contexts: i.e., an individual encounters Sheol directly and personally. Clear synonyms include bôr, bĕʾēr, and šaḥat (all meaning “pit”) and ʾăbaddôn (“destruction”); Johnston also considers a number of texts in which either earth\ground or water may also be synonyms for Sheol but concludes, “Water, like earth, is associated with the underworld, but is not confused with it.” (p. 124). Descriptions of Sheol are sparse, but it is a place where existence simply continued, without any vital experience for the dead. The term itself may have derived from the god Šu-wa-la, mentioned in texts from Emar, who is either a minor underworld deity or another name for Ereshkigal, the Queen of the underworld, but any divine associations had been lost by the Israelite period.[4]

Sheol (OT) translated Hell really means "the Grave."

We can see that Sheol means the grave by the use made of Crosswalk software in its Hebrew lexicon.Crosswalk takes its Hebrew from Strong's and Vines. Both are inadequate, but cross walk smooths them out and waters them down even more with interpretive definitions. Thus we can see what I'm talking about in the use they make of words, but they also add their own effects. Crosswalk definition of Sheol

Sh@'owl TWOT - 2303c
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
sheh-ole' Noun Feminine

1. sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
1. the underworld
2. Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
1. place of no return
2. without praise of God
3. wicked sent there for punishment
4. righteous not abandoned to it
5. of the place of exile (fig)
6. of extreme degradation in sin

It does say the grave and abode of the dead but when everything else it says reflects that it adds, wicked sent there for punishment. But it can't produce one verse to say that. There are no verses in the OT that say wicked are sent to sheol for punishment.

For a list of passages using Sheol in the OT go here.

Definition of  Gehenna (hell) in the NT.

on Crosswalk:
Hell is the place of the future punishment call "Gehenna" or "Gehenna of fire". This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.
Essentially it says it's a symbol. The literal is a valley where they burn garbage.

The first passage seems to be quite literal, but if we consider it a little more in depth we can see it does not support eternal conscious torment. Mt 5:22
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Hell used figuratively

Jesus is here using hell as a figure of speech, a poetic image, to illustrate the depth of depravity in defaming another human being by calling him "a fool." He builds a progregtion of wrongs and their consequences:

anger with brother: go to court

call brother name: go to supreme court

Call brother a fool: worthy of hell.

Wrong, more wrong, most wrong. Its' a means of illustrating the depth of wickedness in disvaluing others. He does not say in that passage "hell is a real litteral place." doesn't say it's eternal conscious torment.

The next two are in the same context and one is just a reinforcement of the other. They are both symbolic uses and serve to illustrate Jesus' sarcasm toward excuses to sin:

Mt 5:29 "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Mt 5:30 "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.

these are both in the same context. The are clearly figurative and hyperbole. It's totally ridiculous to think that Jesus would really command us to cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes to keep from lusting>

The immediate context is about holy living:

17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law R135 or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until R136 heaven and earth pass away, not the F65 smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others F66 to do the same, shall be called least in R137 the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps F67 and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 "For I say to you that unless your righteousness R138 surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

He's talking about righteousness surpassing the pharisees, but the pharisees were super legalistic and built a fence around the law to assure compliance in the most legalistic fashion. How could anyone be more legalistic then they were? He's not talking about being legalistic, or even literalistic. He says heaven and earth shall pass away before the word of God will. Sot he basic premise with which he deals is living out the word of God. He's concerned with actually keeping the spirit of the law. Go further in context:

Now of course atheists are going to say that he really means this. They will say this is just part of the lunatic nature of religious extremism. AT the very least they will ask, as they always do, how I know it's hyperbolic. How does one ever know when a literary device is used? Many atheists have said to me "It's doesn't say it's a literary devise." Of course not, they never do! You are not supposed to say it, then it wouldn't be a device. Clearly it is because it's absurd to say pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. There's an easier way to tell. What do people say when they try to stop sinning and they can't? "I just can't do this, I can't stop lusting that's just the way I am made." Jesus is saying that is an excuse. You can stop it and if you think that's good excuse then surely its important enough that you should pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. But the point of it is of course that you don't have to do that, you can learn to control yourself if you really want to.

Given the high probability that this is figurative then it's obvious the consequence is also figurative, having the whole body cast into hell fire is figurative.

Mt 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
He's using the poetic symbolism of hell as the ultimate drama, the ultiamte negative consequence to drive home the point that spiritual power is more important than physical power, that eteranl life is what's important.

Mt 23:15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Using the judgment aspect of hell to drive home the point of the hypocritical nature of the pharisees.

Mt 23:33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?

hell is a sentence. That doesn't make it eternal conscious torment. It is the symbol of spiritual death and the cessation of existence. The hypocrites wont escape the judgment aspects of hell. But that doesn't mean they will experience them eternally.

The same figurative ideas pertain. Jesus other uses of hell in parables such as the sheep and goats of Mat 25:33 also are clearly symbols since they are used in parables which by their nature are figures and symbols.

Not one of those passages says hell is eternal conscious torment. No verse actually says that. No verse in the Bible gives an expository description of what hell is or what it's about.

Tartaro One other words used for hell, Tartaro, or Tartarus in English, from Greek Myth.


1. the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews 2. to thrust down to Tartarus, to hold captive in Tartarus

Only verse used: 2Pe 2:4 "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;"

2Pete is not authoritative enough to build a whole theology upon. Most scholars believe it is pseudopgraphal, of late origin, and we don't know who wrote it. It either copies a large part fo Jude, or Jude copies it. Neither book shares the weight of the Gospels.

figurative use in James

Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

I think this is Gehenna. But It's clearly figurative he's speaking figuratively of the tung and comparing it to hell fire.

[1]Carl L. Bankston, III, "The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds." book review, Commonweal, (May 5 1995). on line version found of Highbeam
rom a book review (this review is no located on High beam).

[2]Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 2002. . 288; see also 

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Volume 5 (2004-2005)

This volume builds upon Johnston’s 1988 Belfast MTh thesis and his 1993 Cambridge PhD dissertation, but constitutes a substantial reworking and expansion of that material. The result is a comprehensive study that is accessible to non-specialists without sacrificing extensive interaction with scholarly literature on the subject. The material itself is organized under four main categories: Death, The Underworld, The Dead and The Afterlife.

[3] Carl L. Bankston, III, "The Formation of Hell:..." op cit.

[4] Ibid.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The History of The Social Welfare State in Sweden*

Image result for Phil Zuckerman

 Phil Zuckerman

This paper was originally written as an  answer to APhil Zuckerman;s arguments about Sweden as an exemplary society without God, but it serves a larger purpose in offering an important lesson that the Evangelicals need to learn right away,

this is directly relevant because i;'ts abouit a stupid thing the Christians in Sweden did involving politics and social issues, that set their society on the secular path,

Phil Zuckerman's major work is Society Without God, What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell us About Contentment.  Put bluntly the idea is basically that what atheists have called "atheist nations" do better, have better social policies are more flourishing than "religious nations." As Zuckerman puts it himself:

They may be few and far between, but there are indeed some significant corners of the world today, however a typical, where worship of God and Church attendance...they aren't very religious at all...Denmark and Sweden, which are probably the least religious countries in the world, and possibly in the history of the world...if there is an earthly heaven for secular folk, contemporary Denmark and Sweden may very well be it...lowest crime rates, lowest levels of corruption in the world, excellent educational systems, innovative architecture, strong economies, well supported arts, successful entrepreneurship, clean hospitals, delicious beer, free health care...[1]

Delicious beer? Let him come to Texas I'll show him delicious beer! Before we get into such matters of high culture let's access Zuckerman's argument. On message boards he is usually represented as saying things like "the atheist nations always do better than non atheist nations becuase they are smarter since they don't have God." He never puts it anywhere near this way. He's really not stupid and he's not so blind that he can't understand what's wrong argument from sign. The way he puts his argument it's actually quite reasonable: "I argue that society without God is not only possible but can be quite civil and pleasant."[2] There's nothing very radical about that. I would actually agree with him, all one need do is see an Ingmar Bergman movie to know that Sweden is the height of human civilization (except for the beer, probalby the only way Texas can compete with them). The problem is the attribution of causes. Does he actually say that Sweden is so great becuase they don't believe in God? Now he admits that his argument is aimed at countering the propaganda of right wing religious types who promote fear that the nation will fall apart if we don't vote republican.[3] On that score I can applaud his efforts as well. To paraphrase, he doesn't actually state it in such a causal way. He doesn't say Sweden is so good because they don't have God, but rather that they can be so good in spite of not having God. I will, however, take issue even with that. A closer look at Sweden will reveal that they are not so totally without God.

My position is that first, atheists who do make the strident claims that "atheist nations" (phrase Zuckerman himself doesn't use) are totally wrong. Countries that do better on sociological measures of national excellence are not so because they are atheistic.Secondly, as to the actual argument he does make, while I basically agree with him to a point, it's important to recognize that point: they didn't get there without Christian contributions, some of them in a big way. Nor are they are without God today as one would imagine. Not that society will far apart if people are aren't weeping and wailing but the recognition of God in a positive relationship with the divine always does one better than not. Such may be true collectively, as a nation.

Let's start with a discussion about the history of the Swedish welfare state. First, a look at the historiography of modern welfare state shows a familiar trend in the recording of Sweden's welfare history. In the ground breaking workReligions, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States  Kersbergen and Manow state that "most comparativists who study welfare state state development agree that religion has played a role in the development of modern social protection systems."[4] Yet, they go on to find that the advocates of the welfare state only emphasized the socialist movements as the builders of welfare in Europe. They point to John D. Stephens (79) and Wilensy (81) both of whom suggest it seems logical that the Catholics would support a welfare policy but they don't go into any real depth about their contributions. They do find that Catholics did enter into social coalitions as a means of making good on their doctrine and also of garnering working class votes. [5] Over in chapter eight, however, Karen M. Anderson finds that religion is conspicuously absent in most accounts of welfare development in Scandinavia.[6] Most such accounts emphasize the power resources of class movements, in other words, the socialists get all the attention, (Carpi, 78, Stevens 79,Sweson 2002).[7]
Religious party structures were weak and thus they didn't make good coalition members. Anderson goes back to the 1500s and finds that Protestant monarchs creates welfare states that incorporated the chruch into the state apparatus. The state subsumed the religious welfare function such as hospitals and care for the poor. The chruch (in Sweden) supported the 1847 poor law and 1962 local government act thus making it instrumental in building the modern welfare state. The acts established the duty of secular local authorities to support the poor.[8]

Oddly enough, however, the chruch then pulled back form social coalition and turned conservative for the second half of the nineteenth century, opposing socialism and welfare state. The development is complex, it takes the form of the chruch weaving in and out of social policy and coalition building. In the late nineteenth century the turn to conservatism cost them greatly as it put them on the side lines and made them disgruntled spectators in the entire social project of the nation. Yet the role of religion in building the welfare state was not insignificant.[9] Marxists theorizing led historians to put the emphasis upon socialist activities and ignore movement that were not according to class lines. This merely ignores a lot of contributions by the Catholic Church.[10]

Protestantism and The Larger European Context

Although early work on the history of the welfare state had included illuminating analysis of the pro welfare role (eg via democratization) of Protestantism latter work had primarily focused on the positive impact of social Catholicism as politically represented by political democracy on the European continent. "We started to consider the possibility that it had been an unfortunate omission not to consider the impact of social Protestantism on the development of the European and the American Welfare state more generally." Kersbergen and his colleagues use the German example where the German welfare state was a Protestant project. This project was then "usurped" by social Democrats and Catholic Socialists. The bourgeois Protestant middle class was thus aliened from the project. [11]

Another reason why the Protestant contribution was ignored in historiography of welfare state is becuase in most of Europe Protestants tended not to be in favor or large scale welfare expansion. Yet this did not mean that Protestantism was not important. This was especially true in Switzerland, Neatherlands, and UK. Protestantism was always more pronounced among middle class shopkeepers and the authors found that emphasis upon thrift and personal responsibly always marked the Protestant contribution to social welfare state. This tended to have a retarding effect upon the expansion of the welfare state.[12] 

One of their major findings was that the combination of Christian Democracy and Catholic Social Doctrine that explained the generosity of Christian Democratic welfare states, which was equal in spending to the Scandinavian ones, yet were not designed to counter market forces as were the Scandinavians. This shows itself in decommodifying labor. In other words, the Continental Christian Democratic parties were less Marxist then were their Scandinavian counterparts. They tended not to militate to change class structures but sought to preserve the old economic order, in spite of "helping the poor." [13]

Another source

Christian Aspalter, finds that "the Christian Democratic and Social Democratic movements were responsible for the development of welfare states in general, and in Germany, Austria and Sweden in particular. In Germany Christian Democratic parties managed to dominate post war politics with the help of a smaller liberal party." [14] In Sweden the absence of a Strong Christian Democrat party after the war meant that the Social Democrats established their own model of the welfare state along the lines of systems of the late nineteenth century designed by Swedish Labor party and Farmer's party. [15]


The role of Christians in the making of the Swedish welfare state, and in that of Europe as a whole, as been overlooked  by historians due to the crowding out of Marxist and other Socialist influences which emphasize labor. In Sweden the problem was worse for Christians since they took a hard turn to the right in the late nineteenth century and thus took themselves out of the social project for time. Sweden was largely Lutheran. Lutheran theology following in the footsteps of its name sake has always had a proclivity toward conservatism. Luther himself urged the nobles to slaughter the peasant revolt in south Germany, even though they were acting under his own influence, because they were engaging in disorder. So it's not so surprising that at the last minute the Lutherns turned away form class identified social reform. If that seems to back Zuckerman's follower's point, there are also the Catholics who followed the class conflict line. Yet their they were important contributors to the basic values that underpin the system form the beginning. In Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands they have played a more direct and more recent role and have been major contributors.

Atheists who try to argue that there is a causal relation between atheism and social responsibility or social welfare don't understand Zuckerman, nor do they understand the history of the welfare state in Sweden. Zuckerman is not arguing that atheism "caused" the social welfare state in Sweden but merely that it's possible for a society with a void of Christian belief to be a workable compassionate society. Yet even he doesn't understand that much of that compassion in Sweden is a hold over from its Christian past. We shall also see in further pages that Sweden is not "un-Christian" and Christianity is not just in its past.
* original title on religious a priori:Is Sweden a "Society Without God?" part 1: The History of The Social Welfare State in Sweden


[1] Phil Zuckerman, Society Without God, What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell us About Contentment New York: New York University Press, 2.
Zuckerman is Ph.D. form Oregon and teaches sociology at Pitzer (a Claremont college).

[2] ibid, 4

[3] ibid

[4] Kees Van Kersbergen and Philip Manow, "Religion and the Western Welfare State--The Theoretical Context," Religion, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, Kees Van Kersbergen and Philip Manow, (ed) 2009. 1-38,1.

[5] ibid., 2.

[6] Karen M. Anderson, "The Church as Nation? The Role of Religion in the Development of the Swedish Welfare State," in Kersbergen and Manow, op cit. 210-235, 210.

[7] idid.

[8] ibid.


[10] Kersbergen..., op cit., 2

[11] ibid, vii.

[12] ibid, viii.
They were aided by the work of the Max-Planck Institute for the study of society in understanding the Protestant role in welfare state development.

[13] Ibid. 2.

[14] Christian Aspalter, The Importance of Christian And Social Democratic Movements in Welfare Politics: With Special Reference to Germany, Austria and Sweden. Huntington, New York: Nova Science Publishers inc.,2001, 115.

[15] ibid.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Perspective we Take to the Question of God, (part 2)

Image result for stars in space

Of course in the nature of scientific realism we see ideology at work on both sides. They are not arguing about the empirical data suggesting how the workings of the physical world proceed. They are not arguing about a big pile of facts that are totally factual and do not require any sort philosophical component. These things are part of the discussion but the frame work of the discussion for both sides is clearly philosophical and thus ideological as well. Scientific realism in many of its versions distinguishes between ontological and epistemological views. In the world of Roy Bhaskar’s realism there commonalities with the Frankfurt school, that is with neo-Marxist social and political criticism.[1] It’s no less so for anti-realists who are working from a postmodern reading of constructivism. Whichever school prevails, science has to make the assumption that our observations really tell us what’s there, if they want rule out God and religion and other “primitive” things as “unscientific.” It wouldn’t really work to assume that the objects of scientific understanding are just “constructs” and then try to use them to rule out the reality of other ideas such as God. They have to make an assumption of a realist nature at some point. They can argue that assumption as a theoretical one, thus allowing a constructivist to remain a constructivist and still assume the reality of objects of scientific scrutiny. Otherwise we can’t assume string theory or mutliverse, or that there’s solidity at the basis of matter. To dismiss belief on the basis that we are just imposing patterns is also to dismiss the ability of science to predict the workings of natural world.
            We can go all the way on assuming Humean view (description only) if we are prepared to be solipsists in the end. We can go to the other extreme and assume law like regularity if we are prepared to impose our own ideas. The only logical way out is to be consistent and follow what works, but that might just mean having to refrain form ruling out some version of SN. What works is the assumption that our perceptions are real. We don’t play on the freeway on the assumption that our perception of patterns is just imposed and all that oncoming traffic is not real. Solders on the battle don’t stand in the line of fire on the premise that bullets are just theoretical constructs. We go with what works and what works is to assume that when our perceptions of regular, consistent, and shared (Inter-subjective) they are worth heading. One of the areas in which we should make such assumptions is in the assumption that order and regularity is inductive of prescriptive laws of nature, and in turn prescriptive laws are indicative of the will and ordering of mind.
            Order bespeaks mind in that mind is the only example we know of purposive ordering. As Vera Kistiakowsky stated, “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine….I am satisfied with the existence of an unknowable source of divine order and purpose.” [2] This quotation shows us that it was not that long ago that it was understood in science to view order as indicative of prescriptive laws at least in the sense of being a creation of mind. I use the word “purposive” and that’s a key because it is the hint of purpose that makes us think of mind. Why assume there’s a purpose? The whole atheist concept of answering final cause and design arguments is to divorce the universe form purpose. “Things are just here” they tell us, “there’s no ultimate reason, there’s only the descriptions of physics.” The problem is the description describes perfect order and absolute regularity. These aspects fit the need to produce a life bearing universe. That hints at purpose. Purpose hints at mind. The fact that it’s bankable, it’s always there, it’s relentless order makes it seem prescriptive. The concept of Cause and effect seems a prescriptive concept.
            Systems analysis approach to the question of laws raises  the possibility of mind:

Other aspects of the systems approach have made philosophers wary. (See, especially, Armstrong 1983, 66–73; van Fraassen 1989, 40–64; Carroll 1990, 197–206.) Some argue that this approach will have the untoward consequence that laws are inappropriately mind-dependent in virtue of the account's appeal to the concepts of simplicity, strength and best balance, concepts whose instantiation seems to depend on cognitive abilities, interests, and purposes. The appeal to simplicity raises further questions stemming from the apparent need for a regimented language to permit reasonable comparisons of the systems. (See Lewis 1983, 367.)[3]

            Cause and effect might be taken as an example of prescriptive laws. In spite of the descriptive nature of physical law in modern scientific outlook, cause and effect is not made removed but still bears a crucial place in human thought. Some argue that cause and effect is outmoded due to quantum theory. Quantum theory (QM) posits acausal happenings such as the appearance of quantum particles. That has been discussed in chapter (?, In connection with Krauss’s book). QM doesn’t replace cause and effect in all of science. It’s only under very specialized conditions that it can be assumed to be acausal and it’s only in connection with a certain theoretical outlook. Of course the question of laws is very complex now. We are not sure we know what laws are. The idea that the universe contains a law of of some sort in an some heavenly realm and natural process obey that law is ninetieth century, no one really thinks that way now.[4] We can speak of general principles or “universals” of some sort. There certainly do seem to be principles that are generally active and keep the universe running along certain lines. We can these are “organizing principles.” Calling them laws is sort of one sided because it conjures up images of a celestial legislator. The term too directly links to the watch maker, law implies Law giver. Organizing principle could imply any sort of origin source, personal or impersonal, purposive or not. One such principle is cause and effect.
            Descriptive physical laws do not undermine the notion of causality. As James Franklin puts it:

The notion of Cause remains crucial to science, even though the most general physical laws do not mention causes. No physical laws or interpretations of those laws call into question such facts as that some diseases are caused by viruses...every technological application of science requires the notion of an intervention that will effect change...That physical laws are descriptive does not undermine the notion of causality. The motion of billiard balls in interaction is described and predicted by purely descriptive of conservation of momentum and energy, for example. That does not in any way supersede our understanding that one ball hit another and caused it to go flying off." The laws just describe the course of the causal interaction." It's a description complete in one way but partial in another, in the same way as a complete description of a person's actions without reference to their motivations...[5]

Nor is causality equal to determinism. Determinism is often confused with cause and effect but conceptually they are not the same and one does not necessitate the other. The fact that they can get mixed up with each other raises an important issue: the nature of cosmological issues as inherently philosophical. None of the issue addressed so far can be resolved by just observing facts; they all require philological investigation, and that means that ideology can’t be far behind. Not that philosophical thinking is inherently ideological, but it’s constantly opening the door. Ideology is like a leach that seeks to attach itself to philosophical thinking every chance it gets. The relative nature of prior probability of God based upon one’s personal search, the nature of laws, the nature of purpose and order, the problem of descriptions and how they very according to empirical observation, the acceptance of strange phenomena (miracles), all the things we have touched  upon so far require philosophical thinking, thus run the risk of ideological connotation.
            This raises major conceptual problems for atheism. First because atheists tend to be determinists to a large extent, but also because the naturalistic reading of the universe (that’s just the way it happened) usually entails the implication that this is the only way it could happen. “This is just the way things happen,” it’s not amazing nor does it suggest purposes because they had to happen this way due to cause and effect. The implication is they really couldn’t happen in other ways, but such is not the case. Nature is all about contingency and naturalistic being is contingent being. Even Karl Popper tells us so; "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."[6] Paul Davies tells us:

Some scientists have tried to argue that if only we knew enough about the laws of physics, if we were to discover a final theory that united all the fundamental forces and particles of nature into a single mathematical scheme, then we would find that this superlaw, or theory of everything, would describe the only logically consistent world. In other words, the nature of the physical world would be entirely a consequence of logical and mathematical necessity. There would be no choice about it. I think this is demonstrably wrong. There is not a shred of evidence that the universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders for reality.[7]

If true this would mean the universe is contingent. That is to say it is dependent upon some ontologically prior condition that makes it as it is. That condition would have to entail some form of organizing principle that makes for order and precision. The best thing we know for organizing is mind. Davies begins to wax eloquent about efficiency and sufficiency of the laws of physics, affirming their reality and then links to God:

Now you may think I have written God entirely out of the picture. Who needs a God when the laws of physics can do such a splendid job? But we are bound to return to that burning question: Where do the laws of physics come from? And why those laws rather than some other set? Most especially: Why a set of laws that drives the searing, featureless gases coughed out of the big bang, towards life and consciousness and intelligence and cultural activities such as religion, art, mathematics and science?...You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives, offering a potent mix of freedom and discipline, a sort of restrained creativity. The laws do not tie down physical systems so rigidly that they can accomplish little, but neither are they a recipe for cosmic anarchy. Instead, they encourage matter and energy to develop along pathways of evolution that lead to novel variety-what Freeman Dyson has called the principle of maximum diversity: that in some sense we live in the most interesting possible universe [8]

This does leave the atheist in a pickle. I hesitate to evoke this argument because it’s a double bind and I don’t like double binds, I think they are often phony. Yet this one is problematic either way. If the universe just has to be this way then it’s bound to be prescriptive with respect to physical law. Thus it’s a contradiction to say laws are only descriptions. Thus a descriptive universe must also be a contingent universe. That much is true, but we can’t push it and say “either way it has to be God” that would mean either prescriptive or descriptive is an implication of God, that’s a double bind. It seems more honest to just say that what is described is order, and that even though “laws” or organizing principles may be compelling they don’t make a necessary universe, but they are aspects of a contingent universe that is none the less ordered and prescribed by some higher principle. Then of course the argument centers around weather or not that principle is mind. In any case the contingent nature of the universe lends itself to several God arguments hat involve the ordered nature of the universe.
            The first such example of a God argument is that of “fine tuning.” Fine tuning is a subset of the anthropic principle, the idea that the universe is somehow biased in favor of life bearing. Fine tuning says that there are target levels that have to be hit exactly right in order for life to develop in a universe and hitting each one of them is so vastly improbable that the odds indicate some selection, some principle that is capable of selecting for life and controlling events in such a way as to make things happen rightly for the furtherance of life. This is evidence of mind behind the scenes. This is a design argument but it avoids the usual pitfalls of design. That is most design arguments are problematic because they don’t have a known designed universe to compare this one too. Conversely they don’t have a universe that we know is not designed to compare to. That makes it tough to say what actually design is. Yet we know what must be design if we can attach probability to the development of life. All that is not the target level is random and what hits the target must be assumed as design because it’s so unlikely. As I have said I won’t go into great depth on this argument, but just to give cursory explanation. The argument has many critics and a lot of arguments against it, but it is also very defensible if one does one’s homework. The major proponents of the argument are probably Paul Davies and Robin Collins (Messiah College in Grantham Pennsylvania). [9] Davies argues that there is a consensus among physicists and cosmologists that the universe is for the building blocks of life. That is to say the environments required for life are fine tuned.[10]
            For examples of fine turning we can turn to Andrei Linde who gives several. He refers to these as “puzzles” that forced physicists to look more closely at the standard theory.[11]

A second trouble spot is the flatness of space. General relativity suggests that space may be very curved, with a typical radius on the order of the Planck length, or 10^-33 centimeter. We see however, that our universe is just about flat on a scale of 10^28 centimeters, the radius of the observable part of the universe. This result of our observation differs from theoretical expectations by more than 60 orders of magnitude….

A similar discrepancy between theory and observations concerns the size of the universe. Cosmological examinations show that our part of the universe contains at least IO^88 elementary particles. But why is the universe so big? If one takes a universe of a typical initial size given by the Planck length and a typical initial density equal to the Planck density, then, using the standard big bang theory, one can calculate how many elementary particles such a universe might encompass. The answer is rather unexpected: the entire universe should only be large enough to accommodate just one elementary particle or at most 10 of them. it would be unable to house even a single reader of Scientiftc American, who consists of about 10^29 elementary particles. Obviously something is wrong with this theory.

The fourth problem deals with the timing of the expansion. In its standard form, the big bang theory assumes that all parts of the universe began expanding simultaneously. But how could all the different parts of the universe synchromize the beginning of their expansion? Who gave the command

Fifth, there is the question about the distribution of matter in the universe. on the very large scale, matter has spread out with remarkable uniformity. Across more than 10 billion light-years, its distribution departs from perfect homogeneity by less than one part in 10,000..... One of the cornerstones of the standard cosmology was the 'cosmological principle," which asserts that the universe must be homogeneous. This assumption. however, does not help much, because the universe incorporates important deviations from homogeneity, namely. stars, galaxies and other agglomerations of matter. Tence, we must explain why the universe is so uniform on large scales and at the same time suggest some mechanism that produces galaxies.

Finally, there is what I call the uniqueness problem. AIbert Einstein captured its essence when he said: "What really interests ine is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world." Indeed, slight changes in the physical constants of nature could have made the universe unfold in a completeIy, different manner. ..... In some theories, compactilication can occur in billions of different ways. A few years ago it would have seemed rather meaningless to ask why space-time has four dimensions, why the gravitational constant is so small or why the proton is almost 2,000 times heavier than the electron. New developments in elementary particle physics make answering these questions crucial to understanding the construction of our world.[12]

The reason the list begins with the second example is because the first example is the big bang itself, that’s not really fine tuning per se. It is interesting that mentions it because he states that the question of laws is still the major problem for physicists. This was back in 97 but that’s still true. The final paragraph is crucial he says these puzzles could have turned out differently and had that been the case the universe would have been totally different. He even points out that aspects of it could have worked out in billions of different ways. He doesn’t say it but that would suggest that meeting the target levels in just the right way for life to flourish (at least on one planet) is remarkable. There several standard examples used by those who make the fine tuning argument.
            Taking post shots at fine turning is immensely popular. Almost everyone admits the universe seems to be fine turned and that if these specifications were not met life would not abound. Yet there are a number of scholarly articles that purport to take the teeth out of the argument. Bradly Monton in an argument for British Journal for the Philosophy of Science states:

The fundamental constants that are involved in the laws of physics which describe our universe are finely tuned for life, in the sense that if some of the constants had slightly different values life could not exist. Some people hold that this provides evidence for the existence of God. I will present a probabilistic version of this fine-tuning argument which is stronger than all other versions in the literature. Nevertheless, I will show that one can have reasonable opinions such that the fine-tuning argument doesn't lead to an increase in one's probability for the existence of God.[13]

Matthew Kotzen makes a minimalist defense of the argument based upon the “likelihood principle” which seems somewhat in the vain of Bayes’ Theorem.

The idea behind LP, then, is that if one hypothesis makes E objectively more likely than another hypothesis, then the fact that E actually does occur is some evidence for the first hypothesis over the second. While there are certainly some philosophers who have raised doubts about the core idea behind LP,2 that core idea has been extremely influential and is accepted in some form by nearly all so-called ‘Likelihoodists’ and ‘Bayesians’.[14]

He overcomes the anthropic bias argument that says when all the evidence is taken into account we realize that fine tuning is just focusing on something which should be expected as a unremarkable part of the cosmic layout. He points out that critics mean different things by “take all evidence into account” and the likelihood principle establishes the validity of the argument. Of course the problem is this evokes the kind of selective bias discussed above in connection with Bayes. Yet it may be the bias can be over come but there wont new information on the divine reality as it is beyond our understanding. The argument can’t make God more probable. It can, however, point up the value in the warrant for belief bestowed by the evidence of fine tuning. It can’t be proof of God’s existence, or lack thereof. Again, we are confronted by the reality that one’s perspective plays a huge role in how one sees God arguments.
            The major argument against fine tuning is the multi-verse, or “many worlds theory,” (MWT). The idea is that if you only one space/time universe then the entire fine tuning coincidences are so amazingly against the odds, but if you have a billon such worlds, or even an unlimited supply, the odds against hitting the target just go way down. It’s not remarkable to think that out of a billion planets we just happen to be in one that hit it big for life. After all had we not been in that kind of planet we wouldn’t know about it. That idea comes from Kant’s attack on the cosmological argument. Of course there is no empirical proof to support the idea of a multi-verse. There are mathematical models that seem to support the idea. There is no real empirical proof of one, and probably never will be. It’s really an act of faith to throw away the possibly of God merely because there might be this other possibility that one clings to merely because it answers a possibility we don’t wish to accept. Moreover, even with a multi-verse the furthering of intelligent life and consciousness requires such precision that the multi-verse mechanism would have to also be fine tuned to produce a world with conscious agents in it. [15] Just knowing that other words are possible or even that they exist is not enough. We would have to know the hit rate, that is, what percentage of them bear life? That’s important because just producing one intelligent life bearing planet (not enough just to get any kind of life, but “higher order” life) would still be amazingly amazing. So we need to know what percentage because only if it’s a major percentage (maybe 15%) could we say it’s not amazing that there is a such a world.
            The multiverse is also the reverse gambler’s fallacy.

Some people think that if you roll the dice repeatedly and don't get double sixes, then you are more likely to get double sixes on the next roll. They are victims of the notorious gambler's fallacy. In a 1987 article in Mind, the philosopher Ian Hacking sees a kindred bit of illogic behind the Many Universes Hypothesis. Suppose you enter a room and see a guy roll a pair of dice. They come up double sixes. You think, "Aha, that is very unlikely on a single roll, so he must have rolled the dice many times before I walked into the room." You have committed what Hacking labels the inverse gambler's fallacy.[16]

            Another objection to the theory of fine tuning would be to propose a higher principle of organization that is responsible for the fine tuning, thus passing the problem along to a higher level. An example of this is the inflationary model of expansion. The article cited above by Linde contains his own attempt to do this by trying to answer the issues or “puzzles” he raises by use of scalar fields as part of the inflationary model.[17] That’s really just putting the problem off a level, and the mechanism itself would have to be fine tuned. "The inflationary model can succeed only by fine-tuning its parameters, and even then, relative to some natural measures on initial conditions, it may also have to fine-tune its initial conditions for inflation to work."[18] The notion that there might be higher mechanisms and deeper structures making for life bearing and life flourishing universes could in itself be understood as part of the order, and that might be seen as product of mind; it is still a matter of perspective.
            Yet my purpose in discussing it is not to add an independent argument but to use it as a further support for my point that there is real distinction behind the differences in perceive and descriptive laws of physics, the reality being described is prescriptive in the sense that it is made up of a deeply structured order that appears to be wrought for the purpose of producing intelligent life and thus, we can understand that order as an organizing principle that is the product of mind. This is apt to be understood as argument from design and I really don’t want that. If it is a grand design then so be it, perhaps I’ve found a way to make a design argument work, but I think it’s more than that. I think the real argument has more to do with the need to understand mind as the necessary basis or organizing principle. It has never made much sense to me to think of some disembodied set of order just standing around making things happen, yet there’s no reason for it. While design argument might cast God in the anthropomorphic role of great building contractor in the sky, the realization of a mind-based organizing principle upon which the order and complexity of the universe depends might transcend that anthropomorphic image. Certainly the need for such a principle to “fix the game” of the universe and set the target levels is one more aspect that points to mind.
            Another aspect of the problem, the question of God and how it arises in relation to our observations of the universe is already seen in our look at Krauss’s book (A Universe from Nothing) in chapter (?). In that review we presented the problem with the book’s claim that scientific research proved the universe came from nothing: the term “nothing” proved to be problematic, and rather than true nothing it turns out there are prior conditions that seems to produce the most fundamental aspects that we can trace back by way of universal origins. In fact it seems absurd to claim the universe could have come from true absolute nothing. There are two reasons why true absolute nothing is an absurd candidate for universal origin—in point of fact I don’t know of scientist who actually proposes this—as we have seen, Krauss doesn’t really propose that.
            First, true nothing offers no potential from which something might emerge. One might also argue the force of presumption in empirical observation. No example we have of anything gives us an idea that something can come from nothing. Everything we observe has a cause. As we saw with Krauss, the assertion that the actual nature of quantum particles is not an assertion of something form true nothing because there are prior conditions form which the particles are emerging.[19] Second, a state of true absolute nothing would be a state of timeless void, there would be no becoming in a timeless void. The consensus of science is that there is no change in a timeless void. As Hawking put it, “the concept of time has no meaning before the beginning of the universe.”[20] One theory from back in the 1980s that might help us understand the problem is that of SUSY GUTS (grand unified theory). Dr. Sten Odenwald wrote an article that describes this theory:

Theories like those of SUSY GUTS (Supersymetry Grand Unified Theory) and Superstrings seem to suggest that just a few moments after Creation, the laws of physics and the content of the world were in a highly symmetric state; one superforce and perhaps one kind of superparticle. The only thing breaking the perfect symmetry of this era was the definite direction and character of the dimension called Time. Before Creation, the primordial symmetry may have been so perfect that, as Vilenkin proposed, the dimensionality of space was itself undefined. To describe this state is a daunting challenge in semantics and mathematics because the mathematical act of specifying its dimensionality would have implied the selection of one possibility from all others and thereby breaking the perfect symmetry of this state. There were, presumably, no particles of matter or even photons of light then, because these particles were born from the vacuum fluctuations in the fabric of spacetime that attended the creation of the universe. In such a world, nothing happens because all 'happenings' take place within the reference frame of time and space. The presence of a single particle in this nothingness would have instantaneously broken the perfect symmetry of this era because there would then have been a favored point in space different from all others; the point occupied by the particle. This nothingness didn't evolve either, because evolution is a time-ordered process. The introduction of time as a favored coordinate would have broken the symmetry too. It would seem that the 'Trans-Creation' state is beyond conventional description because any words we may choose to describe it are inherently laced with the conceptual baggage of time and space. Heinz Pagels reflects on this 'earliest' stage by saying, "The nothingness 'before' the creation of the universe is the most complete void we can imagine. No space, time or matter existed. It is a world without place, without duration or eternity..."[21]

When physicists speak of disturbing the summitry they are not saying nothing can violate it, they are not saying these are laws of nature that prevent anything form happening. They are saying if anything did violate it, that event would mean the transitions form nothing to something. The problem is, what would be there to violate it? What would cause it to happen? Of course we don’t know but given what we do observe it seems there no good candidates. First of all there would be no vacuum flux because that’s a product of “creation” anyway. That would be logically and ontologically antecedent to whatever would cause the emergence of something.
            It would seem that mind is still the best candidate for agent of change or organizing principle. We are talking about moving from a position of order and profound regularity to a emerging of some new aspect of reality that breaks the regularity, a regularity we observe and assume to be unbreakable. Then regularity has to go back because we don’t find that kind of emergence (nothing to something) all the time. What could do that? It’s true something we don’t understand might do it automatically with no thought involved, but it seems a mind that writes the rules, and can re-write them at will, would explain it more efficiently and with greater certainty. Of course it could be the case that any number of things we don’t know about might produce the emergence of energy and matter. Mind is the best candidate because the rules would have to apply again as though they weren’t broken.  That would imply turning them on and off. Davies documents the priority of physical law in our thinking about the origins of the universe:

It seems that almost all physicists who work on fundamental problems accept that the laws of physics have some kind of independent reality. With that view, it is possible to argue that the laws of physics are logically prior to the universe they describe. That is, the laws of physics stand at the base of a rational explanatory chain, in the same way that the axioms of Euclid stand at the base of the logical scheme we call geometry. Of course one cannot prove that the laws of physics have to be the starting point of an explanatory scheme, but any attempt to explain the world rationally has to have some starting point, and for most scientists the laws of physics seem a very satisfactory one. In the same way, one need not accept Euclid's axioms as the starting point of geometry; a set of theorems like Pythagoras's would do equally well. But the purpose of science (and mathematics) is to explain the world in as simple and economical a fashion as possible, and Euclid's axioms and the laws of physics are attempts to do just that.[22]

We have no concept of a law that would allow something to emerge from true nothing. The agency that would allow that has to be eternal (that is timeless existence). The reason is because a contingent answer would have to be account for by yet more logically or ontologically prior conditions. So this is kicking the answer down the road, it’s not really an answer unless we posit a timeless agent. The timeless agent has to be able to control the rules.
            This leads to the recognition of an even larger principle, that of necessity and contingency. There are different kinds of necessity but in essence necessity is the quality of not being dependent upon something else for existence. In some arguments it is also reflected as the quality of not ceasing for failing to exist. These two aspects of being meet and are actually the same, as the sense of “not failing to exist” assumes independence from circumstances that would limits existence. The definition of the second type of necessity is built into the first. The corollary to necessary is ‘contingent.’ These are logical categories, they can be observed logically not empirically. Just as we don’t see causality we don’t see necessity or contingency. That doesn’t mean they are not valid categories to think with. Since the definition of contingent involves necessity, contingent things are dependent upon those things which are relatively necessity to them; contingencies require necessities because that’s the idea. Contingent things are those that require dependence upon logically or ontologically prior conditions. Thus there cannot be a contingency without a necessity. Since naturalistic things are contingency their very nature, as effects of causes, (at least in as far as we have observed—we have no counter examples) then necessity is necessary to the existence of contingency. Thus if we find that the world of our physical being is contingent then we must assume there is a necessary agent that is responsible I some way for its existence. “Natural law” in itself is not a satisfactory explanation because the idea of “law” can’t really be explained through the notion of uncaused disembodied set of laws floating about. Of course the skeptic would say “these are not real laws, they are passed by legislators they are just descriptions.” As discussed already, what they described is an order and regularity as binding that is more binding than legislature. Calling it a description doesn’t really explain it. That the regularity would have to be suspended and re-imposed to allow for the emergency of something form nothing; unless we assume an eternal agency, then we are making an assumption that contradicts our observations.
            If the assumption is that of an eternal necessary aspect of being then we are basically positing God. That is the basis of the definition of Christian God according to the philosophers, as seen in the cosmological arguement.

The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of argumentation (logos) that makes an inference from certain alleged facts about the world (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God. Among these initial facts are that certain beings or events in the world are causally dependent or contingent, that the universe (as the totality of contingent things) is contingent in that it could have been other than it is, that the Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact possibly has an explanation, or that the universe came into being. From these facts philosophers infer deductively, inductively, or abductively by inference to the best explanation that a first or sustaining cause, a necessary being, an unmoved mover, or a personal being (God) exists that caused and/or sustains the universe. The cosmological argument is part of classical natural theology, whose goal has been to provide evidence for the claim that God exists.[23]
The skeptic might argue that the agency can’t really be called God if it is minus personal sense of consciousness and mind. We’ve already discussed by the assumption of mind is best. Not only to turn on and off the rules but for the fine tuning, to say nothing of a means of explaining the structure that can produce consciousness in us, after there is no real reason why we should even be conscious.[24]  These are good reasons to assume that God is real. They are not absolute proof, but they will always present a valid reason for belief and it’s not likely they will be disproved or overturned. The necessity/contingency dichotomy is absolute. It may not be to the liking of empiricists but it is logical and it won’t be disproved as any physical evidence of how the universe came to be atomically counts as description of potentially contingent circumstances that require the assumption of an eternal necessity. Let’s assume they did find something popping up out of nothing that might still be taken as the product of a necessity that we don’t see. The “nothing” isn’t photographed and identified as nothing; it can always be understood as the place holder for a necessity that is beyond our understanding. That means the issue can’t really be decided by either science or philosophical argument. We are actually not doing science at this point, we are fully ensconced in philosophy and theology, but these do not offer certainty. The only kind of certainty we can get in terms of belief in God is the personal kind that comes from entering the inner logic of belief and finding that it works to further our lives and our sense of satisfaction with life. It’s that kind of inner assurance that the skeptic refuses to seek. The skeptic wants to be conquered by the facts, but confronted with facts that indicate her world view is wrong, she raises the bar again and again so that the facts no longer warrant belief. Then she refuses belief on the basis that it’s not certainty. That’s why skeptics seek science and believers seek experience.
            Even though it’s not “proof” and even though it’s not certainty in a factual sense, we can still make arguments based upon assumptions and argue for warranted belief. That is to say we can argue that belief in God is not proved but is warranted rationally by the evidence. How much value there is in this approach may be a matter of debate, but it’s probably necessary given the skeptic’s penchant for reductionism. People can be cheated out of faith. People deceive themselves and can be deceived into believing that the epistemic gaps warrant disbelief while the warrant for belief is not enough to combat doubt because it’s not certainty. Certainty in this sense is an irrational demand. Yet people can be led down the path and indoctrinated to demand it. For this reason it’s important to understand the validity of rational warrant. I base my view of “rational warrant” on Stephen Toulmin’s idea of “warrant” in his argumentation model. For Toulmin persuasion is primarily accomplished by grounding claims in data and logic and then establishing warrant that is linking the data and logic of the ground to the conclusion. So the warrant is the link that explains why the data and logic necessitate the desired conclusion.[25] It answers the question “why does the data show your argument to be true?” Of course skeptics will invariably argue “that’s not good enough because it’s not certain.” It can’t be certain. We can’t have certainty in an area where the object of our knowledge is beyond or our understanding. At least we can’t have the kind of certainty they demand. That’s not a good reason for ignoring the warrant. If private personal certainty is all we can have then we should seek it, especially when it brings much better results than scientific factual certainty.

[1] Bhaskar, R.A., Philosophy and the Idea of Freedom, London: Blackwell. 1990
[2] Margenau, H and R.A. Varghese, ed. 1992. Cosmos, Bios, and Theos:Scientists Reflect upon Science, God and the Origins of the Universe…  La Salle, IL, Open Court, p. 52. qjoting Vera Kistiakawsky: bor in 1928, Professor of physics at MIT, she served as president of the Association for Women in Science in 1980-1981.”She had been a staff member of major research installations and had combined teaching with basic research in nuclear physics both at Columbia and Brandeis Universities before joining the faculty at MIT in 1963, and rising in 1972 to the rank of Professor of Physics.  She is now professor emerita there.” From her webapte at Mt Holyoak college (she went to school there—class of 48): URL:  visited 2/8/13
[3], John W Carroll, "Laws of Nature", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Carrroll cites D. Lewis, , “New Work for a Theory of Universals”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, (1983) 61:367
[4]Santo D'Agostino, op cit.
[5] James Franklin, What Science Knows and How it Knows it. Jackson Tennessee:Encounter books 2009, 64-65. Franklin teaches at University of New South Wales, he’s a mathematician who publishes on History of Ideas.
[6] Karl Popper quoted in Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.
[7] Paul Davies, “Physics and the Mind of God, The Templeton Prize Address,” First Things. (1995). Davies was born in 1946, he is recipient of the Templeton prize, the largest monitory aware for scientific achievement, In the past he has taught at University of Cambridge and is currently director of “BEYOND” center for fundamental concepts in Science.

[8] Ibid.
[9] Collins attended Washington State University. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Notre Dame where he studied under Alvin Plantinga, and did two years in a Ph.D. program in Physics at U.T. Austin. Robin Collins' Curriculum Vita. Accessed Feb 22, 2013. URL: 
[10] Paul Davies (2003). "How bio-friendly is the universe". Op cit
[11] Andrei Linde, “Self Reproducing Inflationary Universe.” originally published Scientific American oct 1997.  now archived as pdf: URL:
Linde is Russian, went to Mascow University, he was one of the originators of inflationary theory. He has been professor of physics at Standford.
[12] ibid
[13] Bradely Monton, “God, Fine Tuning and the Problem of Old Evidence.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. Oxford Journals. ·  Volume 57, Issue 2 (2006)
[14] Matthew Kotzen, “Selection biases in Likelihood arguments.” British Journal for The Philosophy of Science. ·  Volume 63, Issue 4 , (2012) 825-839
[15] Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, NewYork: Basic Books, 2000.
[16] Jim Holt, "War of the Worlds: Do you believe in God? Or in multiple universes?" Lingua Franca, December 2000/January 2001
[17] Andre Linde, op cit.
[18] Earman, John. Bangs, Crunches, Wimpers, and Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes. OxfordOxford University Press, 1995., p. 156
[19] See Albert’s review of Krauss’s book, find in “disprove” chapter,
[20] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, New York: Bantam, 1988, p. 8
[21] Sten Odenwald, “Stellar Fronteirs, to the Big Bang and Beyond,” Astronomy Magazine, Kalmback Publishing, (May 1987) 90.
[22] Paul Davies, “When Time Began,” New Scientist, (October 9, 2004) 4.
[23] Bruce Reichenbach,  "Cosmological Argument", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = .
[24] David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind, op cit, 84-90.
[25] Stephen Toulmin, “Part III The Layout of Arguments: The Pattern of an argument: Data and Warrant,” and “Backing Our Warrants,” The Uses of Argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, (originally 1958)  89-100.