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Did you know that it is the Times newspaper’s official view that a creator God doesn’t exist? Neither did I

To make matters worse, the paper is a starry-eyed Dawkins-supporting organ

By on Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Times rolls off the presses (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

The Times rolls off the presses (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

I was going to write about something else today, but had to change my mind: sitting reading the Times (that’s the London Times, for any transatlantic readers) over breakfast on my Kindle this morning I came across one of the most outrageous (from a Christian point of view) leading articles I have ever read in an English newspaper. Times leaders are usually safe enough: they’re not a bad place to start after you’ve had a look at the front page: you usually get, with a bit of fairly bland and inoffensive comment, three well-informed short pieces which include what Americans call the “backstory” (Oxford dictionary definition: “background information about a … person or thing that promotes fuller understanding of it”.)

The opinion part of a leading article is important if you want to know where a paper is coming from. The leader gives a paper’s official position: and the official position of The Times newspaper, it seems, stated today with an absolute and contemptuous certainty (in the middle of an article which is not far from being in effect a puff for a newly published children’s book by Richard Dawkins), is that the Christian God (and the Muslim God and the Jewish God for that matter) does not exist and also that the belief that he does has been, intellectually, conclusively disposed of:

The argument that creation requires a sentient creator – the teleological argument – had been ably sunk long before Professor Dawkins’ hero Charles Darwin began to fret whether a benevolent deity would have wilfully created a parasitic wasp that lays its eggs inside the body of a living caterpillar. David Hume perhaps scuttled it best, pointing out that if something as complex as the Universe required a creator, then that creator, being more complex, must have required one, too.

Charles Darwin, however, though he did indeed fret about parasitic wasps, was no atheist: “The mystery of the beginning of all things,” he wrote in his autobiography, “is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.” He may be Dawkins’s hero: but he would have greatly disliked Dawkins’s belligerence: “Why should you be so aggressive?”, he said to the atheist Edward Aveling: “Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind?” “I hardly see”, he wrote “how religion & science can be kept as distinct as [Edward Pusey] desires… But I most wholly agree… that there is no reason why the disciples of either school should attack each other with bitterness.”

He was quite clear that the theory of evolution did not in any way tend towards disproving the existence of God: to one correspondent he wrote: “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.” He went further: “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.”

As for Hume having “scuttled” the teleological argument for the existence of God, Darwin certainly didn’t think he had: he was confused by the problem of suffering in nature, but was still (wasps notwithstanding) inclined to believe that nature depended upon “designed laws” and he supported his disciple Asa Gray (who published the first American edition of On the Origin of Species) when he asserted that Darwin’s work supported the teleological argument for God’s existence rather than undermining it.

So much for the Times’s ignorant, Dawkins-worshipping opinions, which appeared, as I say, not in a personal opinion piece written by an author entitled to his or her views (Matthew Parris, for instance, is a convinced atheist and anti-Catholic, but I usually enjoy and admire his Times articles): these views appeared as the paper’s official religious outlook. The declared philosophical assumptions of The Times newspaper, that is to say, include the belief that the universe had no “sentient creator”: a creator God does not exist. What else in the paper’s philosophy is shot through by this atheistical certainty, but in a more hidden way? Who knows? In the Guardian, I would expect it: that’s one reason I don’t read the Guardian. Well, it’s now one reason why I won’t in future be reading the Times: over my boiled egg I require a certain fellow-feeling with my daily newspaper (I was, come to think of it, already aware of a certain unease). I now know not only that I haven’t presently got it, but that the Times just doesn’t care.

As for the teleological argument which the Times thinks (if that’s the word) that Hume “scuttled” (hah!) it may be worth recalling that Aquinas put it forward as his fifth logical argument for the existence of God in the Summa; it’s not absolutely required that Catholics accept it, I suppose, but I don’t see why one wouldn’t: “The fifth [argument]”, says St Thomas, “is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore, some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it (referring to the Summa): “The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason” (§286). This argument was good enough for Darwin, it seems; I don’t see why it shouldn’t be good enough for me.

  • Anonymous

    @SteveO: ” Do you REALLY believe that someone cannot have a high moral standard without religious belief?”
    The problem is that materialists must believe that human beings are ultimately no more than biological machines controlled by the same laws as the rest of the universe. If that is the case, then free will is an illusion and there can be no morality, because morality requires free will: you cannot be praised or blamed for something you cannot help doing; there can be no such thing as what you ‘ought’ to do.

  • Anonymous

    @SteveO: ” Do you REALLY believe that someone cannot have a high moral standard without religious belief?”
    The problem is that materialists must believe that human beings are ultimately no more than biological machines controlled by the same laws as the rest of the universe. If that is the case, then free will is an illusion and there can be no morality, because morality requires free will: you cannot be praised or blamed for something you cannot help doing; there can be no such thing as what you ‘ought’ to do.

    Trying to post this under your comment Steve but Diqus is being recalcitrant.

  • Oconnordamien

    Ditto here on the blog. I would love to see the evidence you found that god exists. In fact may I offer to be your agent for a mere 10% fee. The million dollar Nobel Prize would just be the start.

  • Peter

    Any failure by the scientific community to posit an infinite multiverse is tantamount to claiming that the sequence of successive spontaneously-occurring spacetimes, of which our universe is just one, had a beginning.

    If you claim that the multiverse had a beginning you must explain why that is so, otherwise you are open to ridicule.  So far no-one has ventured to offer a scientific explanation for the beginning of the multiverse.

    For a spacetime like our universe to spontaneously occur through a quantum fluctuation, it needs to take place in a gravitational field which is effectively the fabric of a pre-existing spacetime.

    To imply that a quantum fluctuation can occur outside a gravitational field, which would need to be the case for the first spacetime – marking the beginning of the multiverse – is scientific fantasy.

    The only solution science has, then, is eternally pre-existing gravitational fields within eternally pre-existing spacetimes.  The rational scientific outcome of a multiverse is that is must be an infinite array of spacetimes, and not a finite array with a beginning.

    A multiverse can only be infinite and nothing else.  The source of information which establishes the fundamental laws that allow the multiverse to exist instead of not exist, is therefore itself infinite.  Information is knowledge and therefore that source is omniscient.

  • Anonymous

    Easy – open your eyes, open your heart. Look around. 

    Thanks for offer, but I already have someone who looks after my interests!

  • Anonymous

    Probably not as interesting as it sounds. I wasn’t being flippant, however; I really am grateful for all those years as an atheist (although I now cringe when I think about some of the things I believed and said). My faith is deeper because of it. My take on science and the natural world has been enriched, as well.

  • ms catholic state

    God always was….it is one of His characteristics….and only His

  • Jonathan West

    You are incorrect. We don’t know how free will works. We therefore don’t know whether it is an illusion or not, or if so, what form of illusion.

    Even after the origin of free will is found, it will continue to remain a useful abstraction, a useful rule of thumb that enables us to engage meaningfully with our surroundings.

  • Siobham

    I think you are missing the point, faith is very black and white, you either believe or you don’t and if you are not in the mindset for believing nothing and nobody will convince you otherwise. The really sad thing for me as a believer in Christ is the certain proof that the more society turns from Him the more frightening a place it becomes to live in.

  • Jonathan West

    I’m always rather suspicious of passages like this which refer to what science “must” do. Science doesn’t work that way – science will go wherever the evidence leads it

    If you think that the evidence must lead it in certain directions with regard to as-yet-undiscovered facts, then you’re engaging in doctrine, not science.

  • Jonathan West

    Darwin clearly stated that the Teleological Argument doesn’t work for the complexity and variety of life, since evolution by natural selection undermines its primary premise – that life is too complex to have occurred by natural processes. Darwin undermined the biological version of the teleological argument by discovering the natural process by which the complexity and variety of life came about.

    However, Darwin acknowledged that the theory of evolution doesn’t of itself do anything with respect to the cosmological version of the teleological argument, also known today as the “fine-tuning” argument.

    The physicists haven’t (yet) discovered the primary organising principle of physics, in the way that Darwin did for biology. However, Darwin’s discovery should act as a cautionary tale for those who are fond of the Teleological Argument. It is an argument – a hypothesis. It isn’t a proof. And tomorrow, or in a hundred years time, or a thousand, it may be that some physicist achieves in physics what Darwin did for biology, and provides a natural process that explains the existence of the universe.

    By the way, I expected better of you than to engage in the Argument From Posthumous Certainty. You’re not in a position to know that Darwin knows anything now.

  • Usquequo?

    Of course someone can appear to have high moral standards without religious belief but then the question must be asked, how were these standards acquired and upon what are they based? They have to depend upon one’s own often untutored, reasoning so they are bound to be ego-centric; purely for the sole ‘benefit’ of the holder and anyone who might agree with him and as such is devoid of virtue, i.e. of no intrinsic universal, moral value. The Christian does not make up his own morality but submits to a moral code imposed upon him from outside himself, therefore he is more likely to fall foul of it than the person who makes up his own; self deception being mankind’s most common fault.  As regards comparing yourself to others in matters of morality, I would refer you to the parable of the publican and the pharisee, Luke 18: 9-14.

  • Peter

    If the multiverse has a beginning then we need an explanation for that beginning.  There exists no scientific theory which can explain the beginning of the multiverse, i.e. the coming into existence of the very first spacetime.

    Current science therefore does not consider that as an option, and the default position is that the mutiverse is an infinite array of spacetimes, with no beginning.

  • Anonymous

    The Times of London has as much right as any other organ or individual to declare unbelief (or otherwise) in anything and everything it so wishes.
    Good luck to them.
    Me – I’ll not be losing too much sleep over it……

  • D Corrigan

    Yes I agree. “God is Great” is the mantra of the suicide bomber. I was taught the same thing at my confirmation over sixty years ago when I became a soldier of Christ, I was told that I would have to die for my faith, just as some muslims are taught today.  What a sinister thing to teach a nine year old boy.
    It is little wonder that the Catholic Church has lost all credibility in the face of such madness. No wonder the priests and bishops became psychotic whilst living in the midst of torture and blood letting.

  • Anonymous

    GOD does exist, Father, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit. There are going to be quite a few people in shock when they come face to face with GOD.

  • windwheel

    I suppose, what we think current science can and can’t consider a viable option depends upon our Theory of Mind. We have to accept that whatever we posit about the Universe is constrained by our own existence- i.e. the anthropic principle. But, if we accept that our minds have evolved in the same way as the rules of physics regulating the corner of the multi-verse we inhabit, and if we further accept that anything that has evolved can go extinct- indeed, is statistically certain to do so unless some God like mechanism exists to prevent stochastic changes in the fitness landscape- then the Anthropic Principle selects for an eschaton. Any diachronicity in dialogue- of the Reason vs Religion sort- arises from the sense of an eschaton and anything that has an eschaton has a lineage with a beginning in Time- though that beginning may be hidden behind an information horizon. 
    Now, Dawkins, ignoring his own ‘extended phenotype’ principle as it would relate to the fitness landscape of public discourse, is saying ‘my ideas serve me because I am their author. It is not true that I serve my memes, or rather my ‘I’ is a delusion warring memes within my speech-acts have found it adaptive to collectively inflict on me- like some ghastly spider’s sting- on the contrary, I am god-like in that what I create serves my purposes alone.
    But this god-like power over the meaning of their own speech-acts- their ability to do what they will with their ‘intellectual property’ (of which a Catholic Bakunin might grimly remark that all such property is theft)- is one, with greater consistency, one can attribute to a not anthropomorphized but humanly conceived Theistic force or personality which harmonizes and makes rewarding our existential predicament facing the eschaton.