Thank God for Sandro Magister. Without him – and the hardworking Matthew Sherry of Ballwin, Missouri – we would not have access to many highlights of the Italio-phone Catholic world.
But we do. And so we have his short by excellent summary of the events of the “Dio Oggi” conference in Rome (full title in English = “today. With him or without him, that changes everything”) at the beginning of December.
Still, without the full presentations in English, it is sometimes hard to grasp the full argument of some of the presenters, for instance, Robert Spaemann’s “proof” for the existence of God based on the grammatical existence of the future perfect.
But I think I can grasp the main point of Peter Van Iwagen’s presentation as Magister has reported it. Van Iwagen is from the University of Notre Dame, so perhaps his presentation may be available in English one day. According to Magister, Van Iwagen
began with an analogy. Let’s imagine, he said, that “God is to the physical world as Walt Disney is to the world represented on the screen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Even more, let’s imagine that “the events of the animated cartoon are really the history of the whole world,” and let’s call their creator “Hyper-Disney.”
So then, from the perspective of the inhabitants of the world, this Hyper-Disney is nowhere to be found, but in another sense he is present everywhere.
And so it is with the God of our real world: “If he exists, he cannot be found in it anymore than Hyper-Disney can be found in his world; and nonetheless he is not far from its inhabitants.” Moreover, it can be conjectured that the inhabitants of the world might come to believe that it is the result of creation on the part of an intelligent and omnipresent being.
Okay, I follow that. It is not a new thing to compare God to a Divine Animator of an animated movie. The point, however, is that there is no evidence within the movie itself of the existence of the Divine Animator – none whatsoever apart from the existence of the movie itself. And so, if the characters of the movie were able to reflect upon their existence, they could equally well come up with some version of “the argument from design” or the exact opposite, ie. that the lack of any appearance of the Divine Animator in the movie himself makes the hypothesis unlikely or even unneccesary. This, Van Iwagen argues, is just as it is in our “real” world. Magister again:
Van Inwagen then continued:
“There are, in fact, people – scientists among them – who have contended that there are good scientific arguments for the existence of an intelligence responsible for the existence of the physical universe. And there are other people – scientists among them – who have contended that there are good scientific arguments for the non-existence of a designer.”
Both of these theses “are unscientific and mistaken.” But the second, which denies a creator God on the basis of the Darwinian theory of evolution, has become a widespread opinion.
And it is against the proponents of this opinion that Van Inwagen formulated his concluding statement, asserting the impossibility of using scientific arguments to deny the existence of a creator God:
“You believe that the actual world is a Darwinian world – that is, a world in which Darwin’s theory is true. But actuality implies possibility: anything that is actual is possible. And God, if he exists, is by definition omnipotent. And an omnipotent being can create any possible object – even if that object is a whole universe or cosmos. Well, this Darwinian earth of ours (as you believe it to be) is a possible object – since it exists. Therefore, an omnipotent being could create it – and could create the whole physical universe of which it is a part. And if an omnipotent being could create a Darwinian world, then why should someone who thinks that the actual world is a Darwinian world regard that feature of the actual world as demonstrating that – as having even any tendency to show that – the universe was not created by an omnipotent being?”
Well, that makes perfect sense. The “Hyper-Disney”, if he existed, could only make a “possible animated world”. Since “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” exists, it must be possible, and therefore it could have been created by an Animator who left no empirical trace of himself within the movie as an active character.
Or, to put it another way: the Dawkins’s of this world may claim that there is no necessity for the “God Hypothesis” to explain the world, but this empirical lack of necessity (from our limited point of view, anyway) does not preclude the real possibility that an all powerful Divine Being could have created just such a world. The “lack of necessity” of the hypothesis in no way disproves the hypothesis. Grumpy and Doc may get together and conclude that there is nothing in their world that necessitates a Disney, but this would be no argument against the existence of Disney.