Fr. Robert Spitzer releases book on new proofs of God’s existence

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Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

The findings of science and philosophical reason help prove the existence of God, Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., has said in a new book. In an exclusive interview, he argues that if the universe had a beginning it had to be created. He adds that people should not be misled by those who think that science has disproved religion.

A former president of Gonzaga University, the Jesuit priest is the author of “New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy” from the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Addressing the claims of atheism, the work uses physics and philosophy to discuss the evidence for the existence of God.

Speaking with EWTN News in a Wednesday phone interview, he said proofs for God’s existence are important because the connection between faith and reason has been part of Catholic tradition “almost since its inception.” Faith and reason are consistent with one another because both are from the same source, God.

“If God leaves clues that are accessible to human reason, then it’s important that we accumulate them and help people to see that reason and faith are consistent with one another,” Fr. Spitzer explained.

This is particularly important today because many young people are being “misled” by those who say that science has disproved faith.

“It has not, it’s quite the opposite,” he continued, criticizing a “pop culture” agnosticism or atheism with a “pseudo-intellectual bent” whose adherents accuse people of faith of being “ignorant or naïve.”

“But people of faith are very much consistent with reason and science,” Fr. Spitzer contended.

The proofs for God’s existence on which he works require “some acquaintance” with science, whose conclusions can change according to new discoveries.

“When talking about God, you’re talking about a beginning,” he noted. He cited the BVG Theorem, which holds that every universe which has an expansion rate greater than zero would have to have a beginning.

The point of this claim is that the universe is “nothingness” before its beginning.

“The first principle of metaphysics is that from nothing only nothing comes. In other words, nothing can’t do anything, because it’s nothing.”

If this is true then the universe could not have created itself, Fr. Spitzer said. He alluded to physicist Stephen Hawking’s recent claim to that effect, calling it “metaphysically absurd” and reliant upon an equivocal use of the concept “nothing.”

“Something else which is not the universe had to create it. That something else, we just call a transcendent cause, or ‘God’.”

EWTN News asked whether these proofs tell us anything about the identity of God.

“No, not really, that’s where you start getting into the whole domain of faith,” Fr. Spitzer answered. “What you can deduce from physics at the most is that there is a likelihood of a creation, that the creative agency is very powerful to create the universe as a whole, and that (this agency) is super-intelligent.”
He said the super-intelligence of this creator can be known because the values of the universal constants are such that if they varied “ever-so-slightly,” the universe could not sustain life. Fr. Spitzer recalled how the atheist scientist Fred Hoyle came to believe in God after realizing that the odds of getting a carbon atom by pure chance is like “a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747.”

Returning to the issue of the identity of the Creator, the priest said that one could infer that the creator is “nice” because he made the universe “at least hospitable to life,” but then the question of suffering would arise and the question of whether that suffering is redemptive.

Physics only describes the material world, he recalled. “You have to begin moving to something beyond physics to find out whether God is loving or not loving.”

EWTN News asked how proofs of God could be sound if there were so many atheist philosophers. Fr. Spitzer replied that he does not think atheism is “a matter of mere following of rational evidence.” Certain assumptions are necessary for philosophical inquiry, he said, citing the existence of the self and the world, the intelligibility of the universe, and the validity of the principle of non-contradiction.

Many philosophers who have these assumptions “very much believe” in proofs for God’s existence, while many atheists do not address the arguments for God’s existence. He particularly lamented that atheists have not adequately addressed the argument offered by the Jesuit priest Bernard Lonergan.

Fr. Spitzer suggested that a key reason for atheism is “unexplained suffering” and disbelief that God could allow suffering and evil. While Christians view suffering as redemptive and a means to humility and love, some people can view suffering as “utterly tragic” and therefore back away from God’s existence.

The question of freedom also plays a role, as some would view God as an imposition on their freedom and autonomy. Further, there is a “socio-political” variety of atheism which sees religion as the “opiate of the people” which prevents social change, the overthrow of oppression and the improvement of the world.

To this last point, Fr. Spitzer noted that this is a “revisionist” interpretation of history because religion in fact has caused “tremendous” social progress.

He said that more discussion about the proofs for God's existence is available at the website of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, which has podcasts, factsheets, and information on the development of a documentary on God and science featuring seven “very esteemed” physicists. The center’s website is http://www.magisreasonfaith.org

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