Better Than Nothing

All things come from and tend towards Nothing.

The Big Bang Theory supports the former claim: The dense, hot, rapidly expanding singularity that was our universe some 13.75 billion years ago contained within itself all space, time, matter and energy. “Before” it existed, nothing existed. All things come from Nothing.

The law of entropy backs the latter claim, dictating that all systems regress into a state of disorder, all organization tends towards chaos, and all things crumble and fade. In 10^100 years even black holes will dissipate, leaving the universe comprised of photon radiation — at best. All things tend towards Nothing.

But infinitely more depressing than the story of the cosmos is the story of man — a dying universe in himself. He comes from Nothing, brought into being several seconds after the sperm of his father crashes into the ovum of his mother, and will return to Nothing in death. His existence is an island in a sea of non-existence.

Bleak? It depends on whether we’ve the courage to face it, for existence, at the final count, is resistance. To live, to try, to make, to act, to do, to be — these give the finger to the Nothingness that surrounds us. To build a house is a contradiction. To start a family is a last stand. To get up in the morning and make breakfast is to fight a universe tending towards the absolute dissolution of all breakfasts into Nothing.

Not today, entropy. Not today.

This, scary as it may seem, is awesome. But we ignore the possibility of awesome. We are told — by the few who will admit that we are insignificant islands — to therefore be sinners, for we might as well have fun with this meaningless, brief interlude in Nothingness. In the face of Nothingness, considering a life of jerking off and not giving to the poor, the world squeaks YOLO.

Why? Well, the modern world sees destruction as something bold, brave and ballsy. We see sin — always destructive — as a solid in an otherwise watery universe.  The vandals, arsonists, gangsters, home wreckers, and serial killers; the self-destructive, self-righteous, and self-serving; the womanizers, tyrants, and abusers – we are most of these things, and we think at least one or two of them badass. This is the modern thesis: The man being good is afraid to be bad, and the man being bad is hardcore. The Joker is cooler than Batman. It’s a problem of poetry more than anything else: Goodness is a soft thing, while badness is lauded as hard.

But if we come from Nothing and are going to Nothing, what boldness can there be in destruction? The law of entropy will kill our families, reduce our houses to dust, and slowly, steadily, bring about all the super-hardcore-ness we can imagine. There is no rebellion in hastening the inevitable. A killing spree may shock society, but it is a boredom to the universe, who ultimately kills everyone. To objectify a woman into a sex object might give men a thrill, but it is pathetic to the universe, who is busy rendering her into a corpse.

Sin is weak. Sin is a white flag of surrender waved to the oncoming Nothingness. Sin chooses absence over being and Nothing over Something. Sin is sinful not in that it is too bold, but in that it is not bold enough.

We see this truth on a personal level. Sin is always the easiest action to perform in any given situation. All it requires is Nothing.

To commit the sin of wrath or anger, a man doesn’t have to do anything, he merely has to lose something — his temper. He breaks, he snaps, he “gives in”, all of which merely points out the obvious, that he stops doing something. There is no boldness in wrath, any more than there is in rot, though they amount to the same thing, an acquiescence into Nothingness.

To commit the sin of pride, a man need not do anything. He does not know — nor can he — if his family and friends are having the same experience of life, or the same depth of thought and feeling that he is. He does not know them as selves — that is, as he knows himself — but as others. To be prideful is this — to view everyone else solely as others, never making the leap of faith that acknowledges that the “I” is not the center of the universe, nor the only being having an experience of self, but that others are in fact selves — deep, rich and valuable. All Pride requires is not doing anything.

Lust is merely the absence of love in the erotic. Sloth is the simply the absence of diligence and love for life. (It requires nothing, as a man standing straight requires nothing to slouch. He only needs to stop doing something, to stop standing straight. Sloth is a spiritual slouch.) Envy is the absence of kindness. Greed is the absence of charity. Gluttony is the absence of temperance.

So to summarize: Man comes from Nothing and goes to Nothing. In the brief interval of time in which he exists, he has the free choice to give in to the Nothingness that surrounds his existence — to sin — or to fight it with joy — to practice virtue. Sin is surrender and virtue is resistance. If it is a better thing to fight than to fail, then it follows that all men should practice virtue for its own sake.

It was only when I realized that the call of the Catholic Church was a call to arm ourselves against Nothingness that I could accept the possibility of actually, possibly, just maybe trying to be a good person. I could finally understand why Christians claim that “the wage of sin is death”. The wage of a constant surrender to Nothingness is ultimately Nothingness itself.

Now all of this was enough to make me want to be good for sake of rebellion, and to die having fought tooth and nail, but the Church demands me take one step further (She’s always doing this). The Church says the fight is not in vain. She claims that we can actually conquer death. She claims that the resistance that is virtue is not futile but fruitful, for our war against Nothingness has been won by Christ, who was utterly virtuous and thus infinitely greater than Nothing. To be virtuous is to participate in his victory. To be virtuous is to have everlasting life, which is everlasting existence, which is the final, irrevocable end of Nothingness and the death of Death. This requires a leap of faith, as belief in the law of entropy requires a leap of faith (that repetitions will continue to repeat), and as the belief that your spouse loves you requires the same. Perhaps it is absurd — believing we can win — but it seems to me a far better thing than nothing.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    So the faith is really The Neverending Story writ large? I can almost get behind that.

    • RC68

      That is a good book!

  • Erin

    This was really good to hear at time when I feel like all the good I do is futile. It is far more beautiful to fight nothing than to give in to it, and I sometimes forget that.

  • Tom

    This is crazy because we JUST talked about the Second Law of Thermodynamics (law of entropy) in one of my classes not more than 2 days ago. Thank you for sharing! This is great!

  • CatholicMomma

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours.

  • By Way of Beauty

    Marc – one of your best posts I’ve ever read. Cheers, sir!

  • http://www.facebook.com/katharine.memole Katharine Memole

    Love this.

  • Thinkling

    Very well done Marc.

    “Entropy…sure ain’t what it used to be”.

  • Ulphia

    “To objectify a woman into a sex object might give men a thrill, but it is a pathetic to the universe, who is busy rendering her into a corpse.”

    This is now one of my favorite quotes.

    • http://www.junglehope.wordpress.com/ Lana

      that is too funny!

  • Jacobitess

    This may be an article on ethics, but it’s
    also just further evidence that empirical science has no right to sit on
    the throne of metaphysics. I never actually caught that the Big Bang
    Theory and the law of entropy contradict each other, though

    I suppose those who studied science had always felt it. While both theories meet the needs of physics just fine, the *real*
    law must be in the realm of metaphysics somewhere, for as Aristotle proved, there is only generation and corruption in the material realm, not popping into being and nothingness.

  • Tina

    Reminds me of something I read over at Little Catholic Bubble; the strongest person in the world is the one with the most self control. Nice post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.duncan.7359 Rebecca Duncan

      “The stillest thing is the strongest.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/clare.smillie.3 Clare Smillie

    great post. Kind of reminded me of Nietzscheism a little.. or maybe a kind of response to Nietzscheism. Yes we can draw the same conclusion as Nietzche when he stares into the void and concludes that life is striving and being a doer. However where this differs from Catholicism is what the definition of doer is. If sin is non-being than a sinner would not be a doer, but only a virtuous person.

  • Jack

    Great post Marc. I would only add that Nothingness is not a pre-existing state that creation is in conflict with. It only means that all creation depends entirely on God and nothing else. There is no battle against Nothingness. There is a battle against sin which separates us from God and leads to Nothingness. Here is a essay that explains St. Thomas’ view on this:
    http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/faculty/calhoun/socratic/tkacz_aquinasvsid.html

    • Sammi

      Evil is merely the absence of good. But we must strive and struggle to be good, otherwise we will be evil. There is no middle ground. I think that was the main message, despite some confusing wording

    • Rick DeLano

      Excellent article, written by a solid Thomist.

      The entirety of what I have tried to say here on this thread can be summed up in this little excerpt:

      “Creatio non est mutatio,” says Thomas, affirming that the act of creation is not some species of change. So, the Greek natural philosophers were quite correct: from nothing, nothing comes.

      Just exactly so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001837523704 Matt LaMar

    This is my all time favorite post from you as of now.

  • Caitlin

    Wow. Thank you?

  • Rick DeLano

    “The dense, hot, rapidly expanding singularity that was our universe some 13.75 billion years ago contained within itself all space, time, matter and energy. “Before” it existed, nothing existed. All things come from Nothing.”

    >> Bunk. All things come from the creative act of God. Nothing comes from nothing. I can understand an atheist propagating such idiocy.

    That a Catholic should do so, and be fawned over, is simply another indication of how bad things really are.

    • Dubravka

      Subtlety and sarcasm are not your specialty (obviously) but I see that feeling superior and rude sure is. Do you really think you got it all down? That your behavior isn’t part of “how bad things really are”? I’d beg to differ.

      • Rick DeLano

        It really isn’t about “feelings”, Dub.

        The proposition “something came from nothing” is a logical absurdity.

        It self-refutes.

        Even if the self-refutation involves sniveling about hurt “feelings”.

        • http://www.facebook.com/marcjohnpaul Marc Barnes

          Thanks for your comments! It’s no problem to say that all things come from nothing from a Catholic perspective: We believe that God created ex nihilo, yes?

          • Rick DeLano

            Sorry, Marc. God is not nihilo.

            The Catholic Faith does not teach that something comes from nothing.

            The Catholic Faith teaches that God creates from nothing.

            But God is not nothing, however much one might be prepared to attempt to fudge the question in order to appear relevant in the world of Lawrence Krauss and his fellow physicists-turned-metaphysicians (they might be excellent physicists- they, like you, are catastrophic metaphysicians).

          • Tom

            Marc simply asks if God creates from nothing, which is true. But Marc doesn’t identify God with nothing.

          • Rick DeLano

            I am afraid he does exactly that, Tom.

            Perhaps he did not intend this.

            Clarity in thinking is a hallmark of Catholic metaphysics, and a notable flaw in the metaphysics of “something from nothing”, notably of the Lawrence Krauss school of physicists-turned metaphysicians.

            But as for whether Marc doesn’t identify God with nothing, I am afraid his words do exactly that:

            “The dense, hot, rapidly expanding singularity that was our universe some 13.75 billion years ago contained within itself all space, time, matter and energy. “Before” it existed, nothing existed. All things come from Nothing.”

            Where, please, is God in such a terribly unCatholic sentence?

          • Stacy Trasancos

            A tenet of atheism is that reason is a product of human evolution, just another step along the pathway that began with the Big Bang, a “random byproduct of the ocean of irrationality from which everything actually sprang.” (Cardinal Ratzinger)

            The Christian position is not based on “In the beginning was irrationality…” but on the opposite. The Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.” The Logos.

            Rationality could not have come from irrationality.

            I’m sure it was unintentional on Marc’s part, but it Rick is right, it is important to acknowledge God existed in the beginning, though it would be correct to say that no matter (we think) existed before the Big Bang.

          • Rick DeLano

            “it would be correct to say that no matter (we think) existed before the Big Bang”

            >> I interviewed Michio Kaku and asked him the question:

            “You say that the eternally existing multiverse inflates over and over infinitely. Does this mean that some other multiverse had a t=0 before the t=0 of the Big Bang?”

            He affirmed, essentially, that yes.

            If the multiverse exists, then time exists before the Big Bang.

            You can;t get any two of these guys to agree on any single thing, because they are attempting to make Nothing stand in for God.

            Simple as that.

            It is the logical metaphysics o0f the atheist materialist, taken to its logical conclusion.

            Every attribute of God as Creator is simply assigned to Nothing.

            And even Catholics swallow this up as if they had never in any way been taught the Catholic foundations laid for centuries, which the “something from nothing” physics-as-metaphysics crowd have been driven to the most remarkable extremes of self-contradiction; all in an an effort to escape the fundamental outcome of Catholic metaphysics:

            The metaphysical necessity of God’s existence.

            Good heavens they are almost there, and there seems to be no one willing to force them to confront the logical consequences of their false First Principle:

            Something Comes From Nothing.

          • BobbyStruck

            “The metaphysical necessity of God’s existence…Good heavens they are almost there, and there seems to be no one willing to force them to confront the logical consequences of their false First Principle: Something Comes From Nothing.”

            Nope, the only metaphysical necessity is that something exists eternally.

            Positing a personal being (god) as that eternally existing thing in no way puts you on firmer ground than the atheist when it comes to this problem.

          • Rick DeLano

            Quite to the contrary, Bobby.

            It is necessary to account for the fact that something actually exists.

            This is the supreme error in logic, and in metaphysics, which is manifested in the logically absurd- if necessary, given atheist/materialist premises- proposition that something comes from nothing.

            This assertion is self-refuting.

            It does not require refutation, since it refutes itself.

            To suggest that the existence of a thing does not require us to account for its coming into existence, is to abandon science, as well as philosophy, as well as metaphysics.

            Which is exactly why we are now inundated with fictitious entities, mathematical fudge factors such as:

            1. Curved spacetime
            2. Dark matter
            3. Dark energy
            4. Inflatons
            5. Multiverses

            All of these entities are invented to mathematically bridge the otherwise insuperable gap between theory and observation, and ultimately, they are invented to try and divert the vulnerable from examination of the logical absurdity involved in the proposition:

            Something comes from Nothing.

          • BobbyStruck

            Surely you’ve got to see that this is special pleading for god. Either god exists eternally or some natural state out of which things arise must be necessary and eternal. At best, this results in a standoff-tie between the two positions. You can ask from where does that natural state arise, just as I can ask from where comes god. But I agree that “who designed the designer” is a pointless question for me to ask you, because by your hypothesis, god does not begin to exist. But your objection to the atheist is no more valid, as she or he simply contends that whatever exists eternally is not a supernatural personality, but some simple natural state. The question becomes: Which answer more reasonably maps onto present reality, and which is more probable? You can plead divine-simplicity all day long, but it doesn’t change the fact that a supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent personality is the more complex, and thus more unlikely, explanation.

          • Rick DeLano

            B: “Surely you’ve got to see that this is special pleading for god.”

            >> I see that God is necessary, in order to account for the fact that anything at all exists.

            The special pleading comes in when one attempts to claim that something comes from nothing.

            No amount of special pleading, of course, can rescue that proposition from its fatal logical flaw of self-contradiction.

            B: “Either god exists eternally or some natural state out of which things arise must be necessary and eternal.”

            >> There can be no necessary and eternal “natural state out of which things arise”.

            The natural state must itself have come into existence. It cannot be its own cause. Therefore the cause of the natural state out of which things arise is not itself natural; cannot be, since no natural state can have been the cause of its own existence.

            This is elementary stuff, and is a cause of great discomfort for the materialist worldview, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to somehow wriggle off the hook.

            The extraordinary lengths are manifested in the mushrooming proliferation of fictitious entities, mathematical fictions introduced to bridge the gap between theory and observation, as physics jumps the fence and finds itself doing metaphysics (badly).

            How ironic that, rather than arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, the physicists-as-metaphysicists now propose to sentence us to a period (decades? centuries?) where we can argue over how many multiverses exist beyond our even theoretical capacity to ever observe them.

            It’s the end of the road for the materialist enterprise. I applaud them, they have done great things, but they have reached the boundaries of their competence and now the Church, as the custodian of rigorous metaphysics, needs to come to their rescue.

            Which need, by the way, Pope Benedict has been noticeably addressing just lately.

            B: “At best, this results in a standoff-tie between the two positions.”

            >> No. There is no equivalence between the logical proposition that no natural thing can be its own cause, and the illogical proposition that a natural thing *can* be its own cause.

            The first proposition is true, the second is false.

            B: “You can ask from where does that natural state arise, just as I can ask from where comes god.”

            >> I answer that no natural state can have brought itself into existence in the first place, and therefore the natural state must have a supernatural cause.

            This answers your question about “from where comes” God.

            God is a supernatural, not a natural, Being, and hence does not “come from” any other natural thing.

            This uch established, we can proceed to examine the necessary attributes of this supernatural being, and discover, among other necessary attributes, that He must be simple, and He cannot be contingent.

            This much established, the battle is won, and physics can pull itself back from the Never-Never Land of the multiverse, perhaps.

            B: “But I agree that “who designed the designer” is a pointless question for me to ask you, because by your hypothesis, god does not begin to exist.”

            >> Bingo.

            B: “But your objection to the atheist is no more valid, as she or he simply contends that whatever exists eternally is not a supernatural personality, but some simple natural state.”

            >> This is demonstrably false, since no natural thing can be the cause of its own existence.

            B: “The question becomes: Which answer more reasonably maps onto present reality, and which is more probable?”

            >> The question has been answered. The materialist insists that natural things can be their own cause of existence, and since this is absurd, they can expect to advance absurdities as a consequence.

            Chief among these will be found to be the self-refuting proposition that Something comes from Nothing.

          • BobbyStruck

            Again, if something doesn’t begin to exist, but exists, it doesn’t need a cause. This doesn’t mean that it caused itself, and it doesn’t mean it came from nothing. It’s just eternal, and there’s no reason a simple physical state can’t be just that. What makes you think that “nothing,” defined rigidly as a “lack of all being” rather than a Kraussian scientific quantity, is even possible, and not just an idea for which we can assign a word?

            Either a simple physical state is eternal and uncaused or a supernatural personal being is eternal and uncaused. Your hypothesis is the more problematic one. It’s more complex, and it’s unclear how an eternal being that exists outside of time can be personal, get angry, and have changing, for lack of a better word, mental states. Personality requires temporality. The best you can get is deism. Plantinga is right about one thing — arguments for divine simplicity leave you with a first-cause that in no way meaningfully resembles the christian god. The god that answers prayer, tests Job, talks to people, writes books, becomes flesh, and performs miracles, is complex and not simple, no matter how badly you want him to be.

          • Rick DeLano

            B: “Again, if something doesn’t begin to exist, but exists, it doesn’t need a cause.”

            >> There is no natural thing that doesn’t begin to exist. Therefore the notion that a natural thing can exist without a cause, is another example of the absurdities which are to be expected from a materialist attempting to construct a metaphysics in accordance with his false first premises:

            1. Natural things can exist without having come into existence;

            or, alternatively,

            2. Something comes from Nothing.

            B: “This doesn’t mean that it caused itself,”

            >> It means, instead, that it exists without having come into existence.

            The logical difficulties are not improved by substituting this for the alternative, “something comes from nothing”.

            Both propositions are self-refuting.

            and it doesn’t mean it came from nothing.

            B: “It’s just eternal, and there’s no reason a simple physical state can’t be just that.”

            >> The question of “eternal” is irrelevant to your problem. It is another fudge factor. Your problem is not supposing an eternity of time for the existence of the natural order (although that does have its own problems of course).

            Your problem is that the natural order must have come into existence in the first place.

            It cannot have caused itself to come into existence.

            Indeed, the very concept of “time” is meaningless in the absence of bodies and motion.

            Time, after all, is simply the metric of change of position of bodies in space.

            Let us grant the (absurd) proposition that an infinity of time corresponds to the age of the natural order.

            This does not help you.

            The natural order must have, nonetheless, come into existence.

            Aquinas is very helpful here, in distinguishing infinity “per se” and infinity “per accidens”, but that is only if you are interested.

            In terms of your argument, an “infinite” temporal duration of a natural order still does nothing to solve the problem that the natural order must have come into existence in the first place.

            B: “What makes you think that “nothing,” defined rigidly as a “lack of all being” rather than a Kraussian scientific quantity,

            >> B you are a smart guy. Now please take a moment and read the above sentence and weep.

            NOTHING is a “Kraussian scientific QUANTITY”??????

            Does the obvious self-contradictory nature of the assertion not leap out at you?

            I know you can see it.

            I have enjoyed this but if we are going to take this further I would respectfully ask you to answer my question above, since further dialogue would really not be fruitful unless you are prepared to grant that “nothing” cannot possibly represent a “scientific quantity”.

            If it is scientific, it is not nothing.

            If it is a quantity, it is stupendously obvious that it is not nothing.

            Can we agree on that much?

          • BobbyStruck

            No disrespect intended, but you’re the one that needs to reread it. My point was that Krauss’ definition is in fact irrational. Since the context in which we’re having this discussion dealt with Krauss, who claims that “nothing is a scientific quantity,” I was sure to explicitly state that I define nothing as “a lack of all being,” and NOT a Kraussian scientific quantity. See?

            Having defined nothing as a “lack of all being,” I simply asked what reason we have to think that such a “nothing” is even in play? If there “never was a nothing,” then god solves no problems.

          • Rick DeLano

            Excellent, thank you we have now found a very useful point of agreement.

            We both agree that Krauss has botched his metaphysics catastrophically.

            I will pass on to examine your distinct, but related, metaphysical difficulty.

            B: “Having defined nothing as a “lack of all being,” I simply asked what reason we have to think that such a “nothing” is even in play? If there “never was a nothing,” then god solves no problems.

            >> To the contrary. It is certain that there never was a “nothing”, since if there ever was a “nothing”, there could never possibly have been a “something”, since, as I sense you agree, something most definitely does *not* come from nothing.

            So we agree that there never was a “nothing”.

            There was always a “something.”

            You propose that something to be the natural order.

            I answer that this is impossible.

            Since we observe motion to occur among bodies in the natural order, we know that all such motions must be caused.

            The bodies do not move themselves- they must be acted upon by a force existing prior to that motion.

            At the end of this chain of motion, we are required to admit that no natural cause can have set the natural order into the motion which it now is observed to exhibit.

            Once again, we are required to admit that a supernatural cause is required to have initiated the condition of motion which we observe today.

            Even if the motion could be supposed to extend back an “infinite amount of time” (there is a whopper of a logical difficulty in that one too, but let’s stipulate to it for now)……

            Even if we suppose such an “infinite duration” of motion, we still cannot account for the fact of the motion itself, from within the observed physical characteristics of the natural order.

            And so we are again left with the metaphysically necessary existence of God; a supernatural, non-composite, non-contingent Being.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Yah. “IT JUST IS!” is hardly an explanation of anything, and it puts the boundaries of reason inside the natural order. “God did it” at least leaves the entire natural order open to reason.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Rick:

            Indeed, the very concept of “time” is meaningless in the absence of bodies and motion.

            Time, after all, is simply the metric of change of position of bodies in space.

            Aquinas put it more broadly:
            “Time is the measure of motion in corruptible being.” In modern lingo: time is the measure of change in changeable things. Change of location is merely one sort of change. A ripening apple from green to red is also in motion/kinesis.

            Augustine put it this way:
            “With the motion of creatures, time began to run its course. It is idle to look for time before creation, as if time can be found before time.”

            whereas Einstein expressed it thusly:
            “Formerly, people thought that if matter disappeared from the universe, space and time would remain. Relativity declares that space and time would disappear with matter.”

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            if something doesn’t begin to exist, but exists, it doesn’t need a cause.

            Consider an eternal Foot planted eternally in the eternal Sand. Beneath the Foot is the eternal Footprint. This Footprint did not begin to exist, since it is eternal. But it certainly has a cause: the eternal Foot. Causation is a logical priority, not a temporal one.

            it’s unclear how an eternal being that exists outside of time can be
            personal, get angry, and have changing, for lack of a better word,
            mental states.

            Analogy. God cannot be known directly, but only by analogy. Because we exist in time we interpret certain things as if God has changed, rather than that our understanding of God has changed. We agree that theistic personalism is incoherent, largely for the reasons you have suggested. But that does not mean that Aquinas ended up with mere deism. Quite the contrary.

            If the Unchanged Changer is a being of pure act (BPA), then it must be singular and it must be the primary cause of all causal chains and the source of all powers. (This is what is meant by “all-power full.” Not some superhero in Spandex and cape.) In particular, it is the source of intellect and will. Therefore, there must be something in the BPA that is “like” intellect and will, and therefore, since a person is simply a being of intellect and will, the BPA is a person and we can at that point in the logical sequence of theorems start referring to it as “him.” (Or “her,” but there are reasons why the first declension pronoun is more poetically appropriate.) One can then reason from the subject and object of the two predicates of self-knowing and self-desiring the existence of three hypostases within the Godhead, and so on. Christians believe, further, that this Godhead, in the person of God-as-self-known (i.e., as “conceived”) intruded into space-time in the being of Jesus of Nazareth. But that comes from revelation and the testimony of eyewitnesses, not from logic and reason.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Actually, the contrary. One one has reasoned from kinesis in the world to the necessary existence of a being of pure act, certain characteristics of the BPA drop out like dominoes, including its nature as super-natural, personal, etc. The BPA does not begin to exist by hypothesis. That it does not begin to exist is a conclusion. It is only later in the string of theorems that the proven attributes are seen to add up to God.

            You do not understand simplicity. In mathematics, a maze is a simple curve while a figure-8 is complex. Toting up a series of attributes does not make a thing more complex. Anyhow, the contrary of “simple” in this context is “compound” not “complex.”

            Besides, as Br. Wm of Ockham, OFM, once said, we want to reduce the number of terms in our models because we will not otherwise understand our models, not because a model with fewer Xs is more likely to be accurate. It is in fact a rougher approximation than one with more Xs. The real world, Ockham said, may be as complex as God wishes.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            A useful reference in this regard is “The Day Without Yesterday” by John Farrell, which is a biography of Fr. (later, Msgr.) Georges Lemaître, the Belgian priest and mathematician who devised the Big Bang theory as a solution to the field equations of general relativity. He predicted the red shift expansion and the cosmic background radiation. The book is an easy read, containing little in the way of mathematics.

            The response by Fred Hoyle and other atheist scientists was to insist that something could not come from nothing, and so there was never a state of nothingness. Hence, the Steady State theory. (“Big Bang” was a derisive nickname coined by Sir Fred.) Fashions change, I suppose. The multiverse [sic] is just another way of insisting that something could not come from nothing.

          • Rick DeLano

            Nowadays of course the atheists wrote books with titles like “A Universe From Nothing”. About the (sic) multiverse. Which YOS insists is “just another way of insisting that something could not come from nothing”.

            Right.

          • Kevin

            This is normally why you research a person and past posts before going on a rant and making yourself look quite unintelligent by attacking an incredible young defender of the faith.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that reason is a “random byproduct of the ocean of irrationality from which everything actually sprang,” Rick would be compelled to denounce him as unCatholic. Oh, dear.

          • Rick DeLano

            No Catholic would ever assert as true, the proposition that reason is a “random byproduct of the ocean of irrationality from which everything actually sprang,”

            Cardinal; Ratzinger certainly doesn’t.

            Mark, on the other hand, positively asserts:

            “So to summarize: Man comes from Nothing and goes to Nothing. In the brief interval of time in which he exists, he has the free choice to give in to the Nothingness that surrounds his existence — to sin — or to fight it with joy — to practice virtue.”

            And this is supposedly Chesterton, Belloc, Paul to the Athenians, Virgil to Dante?

            Ridiculous.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            He was only writing from that position, explaining what that position is and what it entails, just as Ratzinger was in the excerpt quoted. I think you are taking literally was was clearly intended “for the sake of the argument.”

          • Sammi

            This was Mark stating the common non-Catholic point of view for purpose of demonstration. He was being subtle and slightly sarcastic. You misunderstood his intentions a little.

          • Rick DeLano

            Sammi:

            Intentions are subjective.

            Words are objective.

            I have only his words by which to assess his intentions.

            I assume he intended to say what he in fact did say.

            What he did in fact says was this:

            “The dense, hot, rapidly expanding singularity that was our universe some 13.75 billion years ago contained within itself all space, time, matter and energy. “Before” it existed, nothing existed. All things come from Nothing.”

            I must ask again:

            Where, please, is God in such a terribly unCatholic sentence?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That is a very fundamentalist-atheist approach to the use of words. Don’t try reading poetry, allegory, natural science, or arguments sc. arg.

          • franciswithwolves

            Rick – your brain is confused. The two statements above, which you attempt to make into contradictions, mean literally the same thing. What YOU are trying to posit is the position contrary to Catholic teaching, not the argument in the article. If you are claiming that God did not create ex nihilo, you’re either saying matter existed that God did not create, or the universe is made of God. Maybe next time you try to tear down a good argument as anti-Catholic you can make sure you’re not a pantheist first.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Dude, he was simply exploring the consequences of such a belief. If’n you need all things spelled out in words of one syllable, don’t try Chesterton or Aquinas, let alone Lemaitre (LOL)

  • Rick DeLano

    “So to summarize: Man comes from Nothing and goes to Nothing. ”

    >> Man comes from God and returns to Him for judgement, and then endures eternally in the very body which you claim comes from nothing.

    I invite you to consider Catholic Truth the next time you go mewling over your brave stand as nihil against nihil.

    • http://imperfectfornow.blogspot.com/ Mackman

      What a douchey post. What a douchey, douchey post. Did you miss the last two paragraphs? The first part of the post demonstrates that badness isn’t “hard” or admirable even from the perspective of the bleakest nihilism. The second part demonstrates what the Catholic Church in particular brings to the fight against Nothing.

      • Rick DeLano

        Dear Mackman:

        There is not a smidgeon of Catholic Faith in this ridiculous bit of sophomoric meandering.

        The author seems mightily impressed with Lawrence Krauss, but of the religion and gospel of Jesus Christ there is nothing at all.

        I am delighted to point this out, and I sincerely hope the author ultimately opts for Christ and not Cicero.

        • Sammi

          Well, God did create us from Nothing. As Catholics we believe that, right? And, if one is an atheist (as are many who read this blog) one believes we ultimately come from Nothing and evolved from the Big Bang.
          Mark is first pointing out the atheist point of view, and pointing out the flaw in thinking that badness is hardcore, even in their mindset.

          Then he says the Catholic Church goes even further: we don’t believe we end in Nothing. That is the conculsion a lot of people believe in. But God has told us that we have come from Nothing, and will go to Glory or Damnation. Mark definitely points this out.

        • Neal

          Rick I think you are missing Marc’s object here. He’s not writing to Catholics in this post….he’s writing to the world, and taking the world where it is. Most secular people, especially 16-26 year-olds, are not ready to hear the truth, their hearts are too hard with cynicism and sarcasm, their minds too cluttered with sound-bytes from the Daily Show and Bill Maher.

          There are many sites/posts that straight up preach the Gospel, but for too many young people….the ground is too hard for the seed to take root. Look at Marc’s post as tilling the soil and watering it, preparing it, cultivating it. When we look at the young secular people, you have a lot of really smart, angry people, many of whom feel betrayed by religion and feel religious people are all hypocrites. Would giving them a passage from the Catechism really reach them? They would simply call him a sheep and move on.

          It’s almost as if Marc is applying a philosophical version of the law of gradualism. He’s taking themes secular people will understand, are capable of understanding , and from that point arguing to cultivate a soul into understanding Truth. Telling the world that “Man comes from God and returns to Him for judgement” to a world that no longer believes in God…this does nothing. You might as well scatter seed on parched, cracked earth.

          (Atheists: I’m not saying that Catholics are smarter. I’m saying, to put it as briefly as possible, that you need a paradigm shift to begin to approach Christianity, that some of your ideas might be false, and those false ideas are impediments to understanding religion. Marc’s post, as I can see it, is trying to get you to think about some of these ideas you might have, and examine them and hopefully persuade you to change your mind)

          • Rick DeLano

            “Telling the world that “Man comes from God and returns to Him for judgement” to a world that no longer believes in God…this does nothing.”

            >> Astonishingly enough, you apparently actually believe this.

            How remarkably blessed are we that the apostles did not.

            The Church exists to tell the Truth to man.

            It is apparently the case that you propose that we actually adopt, as a working principle, the proposition that the Gospel isn’t powerful enough to persuade the unbeliever.

            Some new approach is necessary.

            Perhaps something along the lines of:

            “Jesus Christ. Because it’s better than nothing.”

            Good luck with that.

          • Neal

            goodness gracious it seems you don’t understand hyperbole. Let me restate the idea behind the line you quoted out of context, though I suppose I could qualify more.

            Restating a truth that the hearer has already rejected may not server to persuade the hearer. They have heard the Gospel already, they have rejected it. Why? Their hearts are hardened. Restating the same arguments from authority, even when the authority is from God, will not work on someone who has already rejected the authority.

            The Gospel is powerful enough to persuade the unbeliever, but man can still reject it. Remember, sin works in the heart of the sinner to keep him from the truth. Were this not true, all the apostles would have died peacefully in their beds. Take a look at three figures from the book of Acts. The Ethiopian eunuch, Paul and Caiaphas the high priest. They all heard the message, two converted, one did not. Why? One needed only to hear the message from a man and saw the truth, the eunuch. Why? He was a humble man who tried to server God. His heart was predisposed to receive the Truth. Paul, on the other hand, heard the testimony of St. Stephan, and yet he did not convert. Why? His heart was hardened by the sin of pride, it took a major conversion experience for him. Caiaphas met Jesus in the flesh, heard an oration by Peter, saw miracles (acts 4:14), yet did not convert.

            Paul himself in Athens started his speech by saying the Greeks were religious for worshiping idols! Scandalous! Why did he do this? He was approaching the Greeks where they were, that’s why. He started by saying they were religious, and went on to explain that if we are the offspring of God, God would not be an idol. He used reason to explain why idol worship was wrong, before preaching Jesus! Quoting Isiah and expecting them to see that Jesus is the promised Messiah would do no good, they didn’t know who Isiah was, why should it matter to them?

            So back to my original point, you have a group of people who have had the Gospel preached to them and have rejected it. Some of them have even been baptized, possibly confirmed, yet they have rejected that Gospel. Was the Gospel not persuasive the first time? Maybe they didn’t hear the right verse or Council Document? Maybe if I read Verbum Dei in Latin they would get it?

            Sin has hardened their hearts against the Gospel. What can bring them back. Grace. Can they refuse grace? yes, that’s the root of all sin. The more you sin, the harder it is to accept the grace of God. How can we help? Well, of course we continue to preach the Gospel, and if you follow this blog, you’ll see that Marc does this a lot. We can pray for them as well, that Grace will open their hearts. But you can also help by dispelling the lies. How can we do this? Though a wonderful human capacity called reason. Marc is trying to approach them though their reason, by showing with logic that sin is bad. This can be a necessary first step in conversion for some people. Is it enough? no, reason alone never brings you to God, the closest you can get is an unmoved mover….but you can bring them closer with reason.

            Dante had to walk with Virgil before he could approach Beatrice. The Ethiopian eunuch only needed Beatrice, Marc is trying to be a Virgil (and doing a great job!).

          • Rick DeLano

            I am afraid I cannot agree with your Areopagite designation of Marc this time around, Neal.

            Paul proclaimed to the Athenians that he could tell them who their Unknown God was.

            Marc doesn’t even include him in the brief this time around.

            I’ll not only pass, but actively oppose, such an approach.

            If you think we need to preach a Gospel that involves the notion that all things come from Nothing, and proceed to Nothing…….

            May I refer you to Galatians 1:6-9

          • Neal

            I think I see your problem here. You think the beginning of this post Marc is explaining reality as it truly is, coming from and returning to nothing… The last paragraph hints at where Marc is trying to take the reader.

            Now obviously I’m not Marc, so I can’t speak with certainty as to what his object is, but it seems to me that he’s explaining the common philosophical view of the universe, not his own. Using this framework, as flawed as it is, he proceeds to explain first nihilism then the hedonism that it generates. In so doing, he’s explaining to many a young atheist what he actually believes. “We are told — by the few who will admit that we are insignificant islands — to therefore be sinners, for we might as well have fun with this meaningless, brief interlude in Nothingness. ” that is precisely where most of the current crop of atheists especially those under 25, are coming from.

            He then proceeds to discuss the glamour of evil, “The Joker is cooler than Batman. It’s a problem of poetry more than anything else: Goodness is a soft thing, while badness is lauded as hard.”

            He then proceeds to explain that this nihilistic view point must not give into hedonism, for reckless hedonism is in fact, giving into the nothingness of this viewpoint. It’s weak. So far he has not preached the Gospel at all, but explained where most people come from in their philosophical understanding of existence and then proceeded to demonstrate the weakness of hedonism….so at least he’s led our Dante to Nietzsche, which is better than nothing (pun intended).

            “It was only when I realized that the call of the Catholic Church was a call to arm ourselves against Nothingness that I could accept the possibility of actually, possibly, just maybe trying to be a good person. ” Now he leads our Dante to looking at the Church, a church this particular theoretical Dante has rejected. He proceeds in this last paragraph to show that there might be an alternative to this nihilistic viewpoint that many young people are trapped in. He ends this with a challenge. Having demonstrated that the initial position nothing to nothing, is grim and maybe not so glamorous the Church alone offers an alternative, I can almost here him say “what have you got to loose? Give the Church a chance”.

            I understand why you are concerned with a view of existence where existence comes from nothing and returns to nothing, indeed, you should detest such a view! But I think it’s a mistake to think that is what Marc is preaching, he is explaining a view that many have, why it fails to satisfy and offers an alternative. He quite literally takes our Dante though Hell (what is nihilism other than Hell?), a kind of Purgatory (when he shows Dante the weakness of hedonism, of sin, and that all sin is hellish) and finally points Dante towards Heaven, but does not take Dante…he leaves him a choice…to turn back down the mountain to Hell…or follow the beautiful lady to Heaven.

          • Rick DeLano

            Marc has a good defender in you, Neal.

            Alas, I don’t buy it.

            I am sure many will.

            So be it.

            Our respective points stand.

          • Sarah

            Your explanations are beautiful! Thank you.

          • K

            I don’t think there were atheists in the apostles’ time, at least not as many as there are today, anyway.

          • Rick DeLano

            It is true that there are far more atheists today, primarily because there are far more people today.

            As to whether there were atheists in Scriptural times….I am surprised you would question this.

            Psalm 14:1:

            “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God, They are corrupt, and are become abominable in their ways: there is none that doth good, no not one.

        • Nick Bell

          It seems to me that the purpose of your comment was more about droping intelligent sounding words than actually making a point.

          And it was primarily a philosophical post, not a theological one. Yes, theology is higher than philosophy but philosophy has it’s place too. Furthermore, it talks about eternal life and Christ’s victory over death. If that’s not the gospel, what is?

          • Rick DeLano

            Another possibility is that you have not understood the words- either my words or Marc’s.

            For example, you claim:

            “Furthermore, it talks about eternal life and Christ’s victory over death. If that’s not the gospel, what is?”

            >> Marc states, among numerous other falsehoods:

            “So to summarize: Man comes from Nothing and goes to Nothing. In the brief interval of time in which he exists, he has the free choice to give in to the Nothingness that surrounds his existence — to sin — or to fight it with joy — to practice virtue”

            This is false. Man does not go to Nothing. He goes to judgement, and thence ultimately to heaven or to hell.

            I have spent time attempting to read Marc’s words in the charitable light suggested by Neal, and it just won’t wash.

            It is not the Catholic Faith that Marc has presented here, and I should be a liar if I did not say so.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Bell/736783264 Nick Bell

            You miss the purpose of the post. It moves from a scientific understanding, to a philosophical response to that understanding, and concludes by saying that Theology is both consistent with this response, and adds something to our understanding. The full understanding that we have with the eyes of faith cannot be reached by science. Science cannot show that we go to anything but Nothingness. To science, we simply die. We decay, and eventually what we decayed into also decays. It cannot discover the fate of our souls since it does not have access to the spiritual. His statement that we are “From nothing to nothing,” was in the context of a scientific understanding. Only by removing the statement from this context do you arrive at the conclusion that this statement is heretical.

          • Rick DeLano

            Yes yes yes I have heard very many explications of how the post is really Paul at the Areopagus, Virgil standing in for Beatrice, etc.

            The problem is the explications include what the post doesn’t.

            Anyway.

            Christ not Cicero, Marc.

            Ciao.

          • Sky

            Rick,

            “The Church exists to tell the Truth to man.”

            I don’t think you fully understand the ramifications of what that means. The Gospel is not a magic spell for you to cast on unbelievers, whereby they are thrown into heaven or hell.

            “It is apparently the case that you propose that we actually adopt, as a working principle, the proposition that the Gospel isn’t powerful enough to persuade the unbeliever.”

            Yet how is the Gospel proclaimed if not by the mouths of believers? If there are hardened hearts, do you honestly believe that standing on a soapbox and shouting words from Scripture is an adequate application of our Creativity? Does Reason tell you this will work?

            Marc begins with this philosophical premise because it is accessible. It is where the world is at right now, and indeed, nothingness to nothingness would be the real case if not for Jesus Christ. It is precisely because of the inadequacy of that premise that we are pointed Christward. The Gospel is fully powerful enough to persuade the unbeliever, but the Gospel is primarily LIVED.

            We are all individual human beings, made in the imago dei, and we will come to the Catholic Faith in different ways. We do not disregard individual cognitive capacity because people’s stubbornness is too difficult for you to deal with. We keep presenting the Gospel, over and over, in varied ways each time, until it sticks. We do this because we love, we believe the Gospel is true, and we desire the salvation of souls. Charity requires a NEW EVENGELIZATION.

          • Montague

            Nonsense, you are merely lacking the ability to see what a blind man would see. Marc is using the “transcendental” argument for theism, wherein you prove Christianity is true by the philosophical impossibility of the contrary world view. The Christian Faith, of course, is not complete without acknowledging that the “nothingness” of the universe is merely finite. Outside the material world God is still there with infinite being. However, we do not need to acknowledge this to falsify the position of those who despair, which is Marc’s arguement; and it does not nullify the “Rebellion” of the Church against erosion and death. If you think Marc is not entirely Catholic in his arguments, you must also deny Chesterton, who holds essentially the same position. And that will make poor Belloc angry.

          • Rick DeLano

            “Outside the material world God is still there with infinite being. ”

            >> Strange, I find this rather important Truth nowhere in Marc’s post.

            ” we do not need to acknowledge this to falsify the position of those who despair”

            >> I see. So one can ignore God and still escape despair. Remarkable.

            “If you think Marc is not entirely Catholic in his arguments, you must also deny Chesterton, who holds essentially the same position.”

            >> Bunk. Chesterton never asserted the “gospel” of being a good person by shaking your fist at the Nothingness from which we come and to which we return.

        • franciswithwolves

          Wow – more like Rick DeLAMO (am I right people?) from the same line of DeLAMOs who tried to string up St. Thomas up for relying on pagan philosophers. Mr. DeLamo: if you actually can’t understand how thoroughly theologically correct and astute this is, in an authentically and orthodox catholic manner (ie if this whole diatribe isn’t just irony,) then you are the single stupidest educated person I’ve ever encountered.

          • Sky

            All you needed to say was that he’s stringing up St. Thomas. The rest is not helpful….

  • Salmantica

    “It was only when I realized that the call of the Catholic Church was a
    call to arm ourselves against Nothingness that I could accept the
    possibility of actually, possibly, just maybe trying to be a good person.”

    Damn. You must totally lack empathy for your friends and family and the world at large if only a philosophical musing made you give a damn about anything.

    • JoeCool

      Sometimes I’m convinced that the Patheos web server will serve different pages to different IP addresses for the same URL. It’s the only way I can explain why some comments seem to have nothing to do with the page I read.

      • Salmantica

        It’s real simple. After a few paragraphs of verbose existential fear, the OP says:

        “It was only when I realized that the call of the Catholic Church was a
        call to arm ourselves against Nothingness that I could accept the
        possibility of actually, possibly, just maybe trying to be a good person.”

        Meaning without the church he finds no reason to be a good person. In other words, if there’s no god, why not rape?

        You’re welcome.

        • Daniel

          “Meaning without the church he finds no reason to be a good person.

          In other words, if there’s no god, why not rape?”

          If you bothered to read the article you would notice that by “good” he’s referring to sin and doing right. He’s not speaking of good in general.

          You’re welcome.

          • Salmantica

            So you can rape and be a good person because it doesn’t count as “sin” or as “doing right”? Interesting. That would explain a lot of those priest scandals.

          • Dan

            “So you can rape and be a good person because it doesn’t count as “sin” or as “doing right”? ”

            You’re still confusing generic good with moral right (or as Christians call it; virtue).

            Drinking water is generically good; it is not morally good.

            You can have egoistical reasons for not doing rape (you will go to prison or a seeing a person in distress affects your nerves, and in that sense rape is “bad”, for example).

            what you cannot have is a moral reason to say that rape is *morally bad* if there’s no God.

            If you think otherwise; prove it.

            My advice for you? pull your head out of your ass and pay attention to what is being said.

          • Salmantica

            Thank you for your comment, would you be so kind to explain what you just said to the folks who have responded to me? They don’t seem to get it.

          • Dan

            And yes, if there’s no God, you can rape and consider yourself “good.” what standard is there to say otherwise in the atheist world?

            Terms like forbidden, Intrinsic moral right or wrong, duties, obligations and personal rights do not make sense in an atheist context; there’s no moral goodness or moral badness in the act of rape. But that’s your problem not mine.

            There might be an *egocentric* reasons for considering rape “bad” and reasons for considering rape “good.” but that’s just it. not a comforting thought, is it?

        • Nick Bell

          Actually, he never assumed the
          existence of God to make his point. If you read carefully, you will
          notice that.
          The existence of God is only necessary to support
          the belief that we can WIN the fight, not that the fight is valuable
          in and of itself

        • JoeCool

          But then he goes on to say: “So to summarize: Man comes from Nothing and goes to Nothing. In the brief interval of time in which he exists, he has the free choice to give in to the Nothingness that surrounds his existence — to sin — or to fight it with joy — to practice virtue. Sin is surrender and virtue is resistance. If it is a better thing to fight than to fail, then it follows that all men should practice virtue for its own sake.”

          This would imply that the author thinks that one should be virtuous for the sake of virtue. But I guess one would have actually have to have read to the end of the piece to have read this part. Or, to be charitable, we’ll just assume that the Patheos servers are serving a different page for different IP addresses and that this paragraph didn’t appear for some people.

          • Salmantica

            lol, actually that quote is from earlier up the post (the prior paragraph specifically). Dunno about IP stuff, maybe you just have your monitor upside down? :D

            He didn’t even think about maybe trying to be a good person before his little realization moment. If he had not joined the church, the possibility of practicing virtue would have not even passed through his mind. No god = no moral objections, just survival, “futile” fighting with not point to it. Got it? I’m getting tired of explaining you things. Please get a clue or pay more attention.

  • Ben @ Two Catholic Men

    I like to put it this way:
    There is no God; therefore, the complexity and order of our bodies, minds, the earth and the universe ultimately come from nothing for the purpose of nothing.

    From nothing comes something by its own power & direction.
    From disorder comes order by its own power & direction.
    From unconsciousness comes consciousness by its own power & direction.
    From unintelligence comes intelligence by its own power & direction.

    Now there’s a fairytale if I ever heard one. ;-)

  • Sir Mark

    Great! Great! Great! One quibble: envy is the opposite of praise, not kindness. Envy is evil because it makes us tear down the good. It makes us hate the good. It makes us kill the good.

  • Kate

    Re: “He does not know them as selves — that is, as he knows himself — but as others.”

    Have you read The New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Buchholz/1203282337 Christopher Buchholz

    tldr version: missing middle fallacy

    • http://www.facebook.com/colin.gormley.94 Colin Gormley

      The accusation that this is a fallacy is itself a fallacy.

  • kalimsaki

    “He is the praise”

    Praise,
    laudation, and acclaim are proper to Him, are fitting for Him. That is to say,
    bounties are His; they come from His treasury. And as for the treasury, it is
    unending. This phrase, therefore, delivers the following good news:

    O man! Do not
    suffer and sorrow when bounties cease, for the treasury of mercy is
    inexhaustible. Do not dwell on the fleeting nature of pleasure and cry out with
    pain, because the fruit of the bounty is the fruit of a boundless mercy. Since its tree is undying, when the
    fruit finishes it is replaced by more. If you thankfully think of there being
    within the pleasure of the bounty a merciful favour a hundred times more
    pleasurable, you will be able to increase the pleasure a hundredfold.

    An apple an
    august monarch presents to you holds a pleasure superior to that of a hundred,
    indeed a thousand, apples, for it is he that has bestowed it on you and made
    you experience the pleasure of a royal favour. In the same way, through the
    phrase “His is the praise” will be opened to you the door of a spiritual
    pleasure a thousand times sweeter than the bounty itself.

    For the phrase means to offer praise and thanks; that is to say, to perceive the bestowal of bounty. This in turn means to
    recognize the Bestower, which is to reflect on the bestowal of bounty, and so
    finally to ponder over the favour of His compassion and His continuing to
    bestow bounties.

    From Risalei Nur collection by
    Said Nursi.

    http://www.nur.gen.tr/en.html#leftmenu=Risale&maincontent=Risale&islem=read&KitapId=499&BolumId=8783&KitapAd=Letters+(+revised+)&Page=264

  • John

    Scientists will tell you that even empty space isn’t “nothing” because Heisenberg uncertainty dictates a boiling sea of random particles constantly popping in and out of existence. Perhaps our universe was just one of the bigger, longer lasting things that happened to pop out. You can say it works per Heisenberg, but that just begs the question of why Heisenberg and what actually makes it work?? Ultimately when you look at the answer to those questions it fits the description of God.

    • John

      I once attended a Watson Lecture at Cal Tech that talked about the notion of randomness and physics. In later studying mystical theology and reading “The Cloud of Unknowing” it struck me that there was a deep connection between the two and that it was God.

      • Rick DeLano

        The physicists wish to explain existence without God.

        It is not difficult to see that Chance is the best substitute they are able to propose.

        The problem is that the Universe is not random, but is instead ordered- indeed to an astonishing degree, it is finely-tuned.

        One can either abandon the notion of randomness, or one can suggest that all possible realities actually exist, and this domain is merely one instantiation of Chance- there is an infinity of others.

        The problem, obviously, is that the latter proposition is not remotely scientific.

        It cannot be measured, or observed, or tested experimentally.

        It is purely metaphysics.

        Bad metaphysics, for those blessed to have received the Revelation of God in Christ, which assures us that this Universe is anything but the outcome of random chance.

        It is one thing to say that we cannot, at the quantum level, presently discern an ordering principle other than probability.

        It is quite another to assert that therefore, the ground of being is stochastic.

        • John

          My point is that even the notions of random, probabilistic, stochastic, multiverse have defined characteristics that paradoxically have an order to them that ultimately demands a transcendent God as an explanation.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Physicists don’t explain existence. They describe it. They must take existence for granted.

    • Rick DeLano

      Heisenberg would have laughed to scorn the notion that random particles popping in and out of existence somehow means that universes pop in and out of existence.

      I agree completely that even were one to grant the multiverse notion, metaphysically this does not solve the problem of where the virtual particles came from, or the space in which they pop in and out of existence.

      The problem with the multiverse notion is that it represents the end of physics.

      The multiverse requires science to abandon its own method- observation, hypothesis, experimental test- because only in this way can science deal with the fact that this universe does not present us with the homogeneity and isotropy absolutely required by the postulates of General Relativity.

      Face with this observational problem, science must make a fateful choice- a metaphysical choice.

      It can cling to its Copernican Principle, and fly off into the never never land of the multiverse, which has the disadvantage of being unfalsifiable by experiment (and hence is not science at all).

      Or it can admit that this Universe is certainly not the result of a Big Bang (whether initiated by quantum fluctuation and inflation or not), is certainly not Copernican, is certainly not homogenous and isotropic on cosmological scales, is certainly not the universe predicted by (required by) FLRW solutions to General Relativity’s equations.

      The Church is in a position to render a great service to the physicists.

      She alone can recognize that the physicists have ceased to do science and started to do (bad) metaphysics.

      We would all be greatly assisted by such an intervention, most of all the physicists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.duncan.7359 Rebecca Duncan

    Beautiful! I think that villains can be loved legitimately though. After all God loves us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.dostal Sarah Dostal

    But Mark was come of the glittering towns
    Where white hot details show
    Where men can number and expound
    And his faith grew in a hard ground
    Where no faith else could grow.

    -G.K. Chesterton

    • Rick DeLano

      “Over our white souls also
      Wild heresies and high
      Wave prouder than the plumes of grass,
      And sadder than their sigh.

      “And I go riding against the raid,
      And ye know not where I am;
      But ye shall know in a day or year,
      When one green star of grass grows here;
      Chaos has charged you, charger and spear,
      Battle-axe and battering-ram.

      - “The Ballad of the White Horse”

  • K

    Marc you are so cool and smart. You’re a rad dude.

  • L.W. Bigdick

    “My erection for Mitt Romney remains steadfast. I fear that my balls my actually explode.

    If my followers think that they are waiting on my second “coming” they are sadly mistaken. They should be praying for my 50th coming!!!!(At least!!”)–Jesus Christ, in Kirk Cameron’s anus.

    • Rick DeLano

      Might it be possible to Memoryhole this blaspheming dolt?

      If not, at least let one of us identify him for what he is.

  • http://politicalbuddies.com/ Cal

    While all these facts are true, I don’t see why Catholics need to arm against these facts. Why not embrace science as a gift from God? I think Science can easily walk hand in hand together, even through the dark void of nothingness. We could use more Catholics in our debates on http://www.politicalbullpen.com if you have time. As it stands…I might be the only one there lol.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      It was because Catholics did embrace it that science flowered in the Latin West.

  • Joseph

    Dear Marc,

    The physicist’s “nothing” is very different from a philosopher’s Nothing. Don’t be confused and muddle the two (as you do in this post). “Ex nihilo nihil fit”: Out of nothing, comes nothing. Our universe came from a physicist’s nothing–Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states. Unfortunately many are confused, and fail to realize that relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states ARE in fact some arrangement of physical things–far from nothing. In fact, they are something; the vacuum states are not even close to a philosopher’s Nothing. To avoid confusion, please don’t get this mixed up. Our universe did not come from Nothing, otherwise it wouldn’t exist at all…
    I realize this was not the point of this post, but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted by nearly every reader, causing the maelstrom of confusion you see in the comments below–best to avoid it.

    Otherwise I like the main point–Sin is weak, and virtuous act is what the true badass does. The Joker as an agent of chaos is enamored, yet, being the Joker is easy. The position that takes real grit, real strength, and real power, is virtue. Batman is truly stronger than his enemies for this reason.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Yes, the physicists ‘nothing’ is not ‘nothing.’ It is a quantum vacuum.

      • Rick DeLano

        Which leads to the question: why should physicists get a free pass to redefine “nothing”?

        Students should not be indoctrinated in a basic, obvious falsehood like that.

        • Gio

          Ah. I believe one of your criticisms to this particular post is its equivocality, yes? If so, Marc only committed the “crime” of ambiguity, but not actually of heresy.

          When Marc said that man comes FROM nothing, I think he did not mean he was caused BY nothing (that’s absurd), but rather, OUT OF nothing BY God. One of the Christian, let alone Catholic doctrines is that God created everything (i.e. creation) out of nothing (Gen 1:2). How He did it we do not know; it’s a mystery. And when we say that in the beginning there was nothing, we mean that at a certain point, Creation, including time, was not existing yet for the simple reason that it does not need to. By this we also mean that creation/created beings did not exist eternally, for only God has the necessity to exist and exist eternally (i.e. before there was a beginning), for his very essence is existence.

          I understand that the language that Marc used in this post is not something which you are used to, but assuming that the target audience of this post are youths (around 16-25 like a commentator suggested), as someone who is within that range, I opine that he did a good job at, at the very least, making a Catholic creed sound interesting enough for youths to start diving deeper into our profound and majestic Tradition of Faith. Although as you and another have pointed out, the words and phrases that Marc used may have caused miscommunication due to their equivocality or ambiguity. But such a flaw can easily be mended by adding footnotes at the end (or the Parenthesiception which is just so characteristically Marc) to explain what he really meant by those statements.

          AMDG

  • Maggie

    This
    was a great post! The contrast between the truth and the modern world just
    keeps getting crazier.
    I’m excited to see what you post for the Thanksgiving
    holidays!

  • joey

    there wasn’t a “nothing” ever, because nothing can’t “be”. don’t try to oversimplify the BBT to the point of misrepresentation and pretend it proves god.

  • spookymulder8

    The Big Bang is a theory in crisis and digging further, it and all the invented fantasies surrounding it, from dark matter, dark energy, multiple universes, shrinking matter, varying time and the abstract math for it all, and the bogus Relativity theories, were all desperate grasps by atheist scientists and theistic evolutionsts to hang on to it when reality was saying otherwise, and especially to avoid the fact that they cannot prove their most precious Copernican Principle – that is, the modern scientific establishment still can’t prove the Earth rotates and revolves around the sun when all their interferometer experiments failed to detect any motion of the Earth. And as NASA’s own CMB mapping and other evidence increasingly shows, the Earth occupies a central position within the entire universe. The Catholic Church and Inquisition were correct, Galileo was wrong, and even Galileo denounced heliocentrism of his own accord years later.

    But Mark’s point still stands in terms of the context, wherein the universe as a whole, as C.S. Lewis pointed out as the atheist’s apocalyptic Greek Tragedy is going to one day be reduced and disappear, and all will be for naught. So what’s the point? And whatever reason is there to be ‘moral’, if such a distinction exists for atheists, when it could just be a completely arbitrary thing you could do depending on which side of the bed you wake up in every morning? Morality could be are just a few random electrical impulses in your brain, that might not occur in another. Maybe some people are just born more ‘moral’ than others… maybe they actually see rape as love and killing as kissing? Who knows? And why bother? Everything will come to an end anyway… Might as well make out like a bandit now providing you can get away with it without any repercussions that you feel would be detrimental to you. Let’s just hope the other guy isn’t randomly wired the same way as you for your benefit.

  • http://twitter.com/gailfinke Gail Finke

    Hi Marc, I don’t know how I missed this one but it’s fantastic as usual. When I first started to try to wrap my head around Thomas Aquinas, I could not figure out what was meant by all things constantly trying to go back — metaphorically, of course they don’t literally “try” — to being nothing. It took me ages. You have summed it up very nicely. There is nothing (but God) that HAS to be, and thus everything (but God) eventually STOPS being. Once understood, the argument from contingency shows clearly that everything that is, depends at all times on God (the thing that is NOT contingent) for its ongoing existence – not just for being created and let go like a wind-up top, but at every moment. Seen this way, life is a miracle — but continued existence is an illusion. Oblivion is always a moment away, at least for things made up of matter. The promise of Christ that death is not the end is HUGE. As you said, sliding down the chute to oblivion is the easy way, hastening it isn’t bold — it’s stupid.

  • derpdurrrrrr

    Tore my garments. Awesome.

  • tz1

    Allow me one quibble. Eternal Death is not an eternal nothing, a variant of nirvana.

    In “Weight of Glory”, the alternative to an entity one would be tempted to worship was not a barely perceivable non-entity, but some horror worse than any nightmare.

  • H. Wilson

    This is on today’s anti-occam society blog:

    “Let Your Religion Be Less of a Theory and More of a Love Affair”

    So advised the late, great G.K. Chesterton, the man who debated George Bernard Shaw on the value or worthlessness of faith until Shaw finally grew tired of having his butt handed to him regularly in public. As an atheist, Shaw went on to be taught in all American public schools. As a Christian, Chesterton was someone you had to find on your own. Oh, but what a find!

    This headline quote is the marquee (literally) of the excellent website with the “say what?” name: Bad Catholic.

    We direct our members and readers to it in complete confidence. Today’s article “Better Than Nothing” by Marc (no last name given) is nothing short of superb. And you do not have to be a bad Catholic to drink from it.

    Please go to: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/11/better-than-nothing.html at once.

  • TeaPot562

    But the “Big Bang Theory” leaves open the question: Where did this Gigaton+ mass at super-thermodynamic energy at the point source come from? Normal principles of physics (Conservation of Energy, Conservation of Matter) suggest that out of nothing, nothing comes.
    I prefer the explanation from Gen. 1:2: “And God said “Let there be light.” and there was light.
    TeaPot562

  • Carlos Carrasco

    Beautiful!


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