Proofs of God's Existence - The Dawkins Dilemma
According to Richard Dawkins, Saint Thomas Aquinas's rational proofs for the existence of God are easily defeated.
Typical of his style is the following quote:
"First, most of the traditional arguments for God's existence, from Aquinas on, are easily demolished. Several of them,
such as the First Cause Argument (i.e from Aquinas), work by setting up an infinite regress which God is wheeled out to terminate.
But we are never told why God is magically able to terminate regresses while needing no explanation himself. To
be sure, we do need some kind of explanation for the origin of things. Physicists and cosmologists are hard at work
on the problem. But whatever the answer - a random quantum fluctuation or Hawking/Penrose singularity or whatever
we end up calling it - it will be simple. Complex, statistically improbable things, by definition, don't just happen;
they demand an explanation in their own right."
[Richard Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly is No God]
Now let us analyse this statement. First of all Saint Thomas Aquinas does in fact explain how God is able to terminate infinite regresses
using rational logic. It seems Mr Dawkins has not read all of St Thomas Aquinas's work, but perhaps a summary of his proofs without the detail.
Please read Summa contra Gentiles (Book 1 - Chapter 13) for the best explanation. In here you will find St Thomas laying out in detail the proofs of why an infinite regress
cannot exist, because it would entail a self-contradiction in his proof for God's existence. A short but more complex summary of this principle of limited regress is provided below
by Dr Woodbury who was one of Australia's premier Thomistic philosophers, and it demonstrates the essential self contradiction. Dawkins does not disprove Aquinas's proof at all,
but merely dodges the argument altogether.
The failure to understand the actual rational logic of the first cause argument is the reason why Dawkins does not see the self-contradiction. Moreover it is also a failure to understand the nature of God or the Trinity.
God's nature is to exist. "I AM WHO AM" as He states to Moses. "Before Abraham ever was I AM" claims Jesus Christ, and they crucified Him for that claim. This self-existent nature
is in fact both pure simplicity and also pure dynamism as many theologians and philosophers are so apt to point out. He is the unmoved mover. This in no way detracts
from St Thomas Aquinas's first cause proof of His existence. In fact it fits perfectly well with Dawkin's call for a simple thing to be the origin of things. Dawkins
has therefore not disproved Aquinas here either, but merely understates what every Christian (and most religions) hold God to be by definition. He places limits on God which is also self-contradictory.
He finally demands that an infinite God requires total explanation. For a man who we think would admit that man has a finite mind - how does he propose to
understand an infinite being in totality with a finite mind? Again this strange demand does not disprove Aquinas's proof of God's existence, it merely avoids the issue again.
PRINCIPLE OF LIMITED REGRESS (Dr Woodbury)
In efficient causes 'per se' or essentially subordinated there is no regress unto the infinite,
- wherefore there must be a PRIME or unsubordinated cause. Which principle is defended thus:
- Efficient causes 'per se' subordinated are intermediary causes, so that if the series of them were to regress unto infinity, there would be NO PRIME cause, but ALL WOULD BE INTERMEDIARY.
- But intermediary causes 'per se' subordinated have themselves only as conveyors to the ultimate effect of the causal influence which they receive from a preceding cause.
- Therefore if the series of efficient causes 'per se' subordinated were to regress unto infinity, that is, if all the efficient causes were intermediary, so that there were no prime of unsubordinated cause, then there would be no causal influence which they might convey to the ultimate effect,
wherefore the ultimate effect would not be caused; wherefore the intermediary causes themselves would not be causes at all, WHICH IS SELF-CONTRADICTORY.