This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Philosophical proofs

When philosophy approaches the kinds of questions we are asking here, it typically approaches the subject from the point of view of the natural order and asks if we can observe the facts, respect to rules of logic, and conclude that there is a transcendent origin at the back of the immanent world which we know and perceive with the senses.

There are assumptions hidden in this approach, the first being that the world actually does follow certain laws and does not break them, and that these laws can be understood and serve as the basis for conclusions. The reasoning, then, is that if everything that is, is rationally constructed and precisely ordered, then the chance of it having come about at random is far less convincing than it being the product of a superior intelligence. If the universe possesses intelligibility, then it must be an imposed or derived intelligibility. Thus, we arrive at a Supreme Intelligence, or God.

It is not difficult to find flaws in this way of approaching things. They are not ‘convincing’ in any objective sense, if what we have in mind is the reality that is God: atheists and agnostics are right now to be convinced by them, and well-intentioned religious people only find them convincing because they are already acquainted with that which is in question. What they take to be ‘proof’ is really just an affirmation, one that is not conclusive in itself but merely reinforces what is already known.

What is really in question is the necessity of a cause for what we see before us, and if there is order here then there logically must be some cause prior to it, and if the universe has a ‘total order’ then there logically must be a higher cause for this total order, and so on. Yet this proves far too little. From the point of view of logic, God or even ‘transcendent mind’ are not necessary conclusions that can be derived from this reasoning.

What we might possibly say with validity is that God is a possible hypothesis, based on the reasoning from universal intelligibility; we cannot say he is the only hypothesis. For the religious person this means that such ‘proofs’ can be used as a way of demonstrating that belief in God is not a logically invalid hypothesis—but that it cannot demonstrate that belief in God is the only hypothesis permitted by this reasoning.

Again, we must insist that any philosophical proof for the existence of God proves too little. A rational proof for God, which follows the rules of logic or even of science, leaves one with a confidence in the existence of God that stands side by side with a confidence in the law of gravity or the structure of the atom: in other words, since we have adopted scientific methods for our proof, we are left with a scientific certainty, which is always a tentative certainty, subject to rejection once either our methods or our data are modified at some future point in time. All this is to say that while proofs for God are useful as a defenses against accusations of the ‘unreasonableness of God’, they must not be given the status of being the foundation of the acceptance of God as true, since this is not justified and one who comes to God in this way will easily be shaken, and rightly so.

We can also say that even if we proved the existence of God, which we cannot, this would not answer all of the questions we have so far identified as the most important to us. They would offer us another morsel of rational certainty but it would not answer why and for what. We could demonstrate this kind of certainty in front of the whole world, and the world could legitimately respond: “And?” In other words, we are left with a rational hypothesis but we are given nothing in the way of meaning for our lives and, for the matter, the entire cosmos, and so what good is any of it? This, and this only: it provides an intellectual security which will suffice only for those who live for conceptual and nothing more. For those who know that what they want pertains to meaning, we are left asking: “Why should we care?”

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