Calvin: Why do you suppose we’re here?Hobbes: Because we walked here.Calvin: No, no. I mean here on Earth.Hobbes: Because Earth can support life.Calvin: No, I mean why are we anywhere? Why do we exist?Hobbes: Because we were born.Calvin: Forget it.Hobbes: I will, thank you.
Rev. Robert Barron says that Stephen Hawking should shut up about philosophy and theology since all he knows is physics…and then proceeds to talk as if he understands physics based on the excerpt from Hawking’s new book that everyone is talking about, where he says that science makes God irrelevant when it comes to the “how” of the universe’s existence.
The classical philosophical tradition gives us an adage that is still hard to improve upon: ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing comes nothing). Any teacher worth his salt would take a student to task if, in trying to explain why and how a given phenomenon occurred, the student were to say, “well, it just spontaneously happened.” Yet we are expected to be satisfied with precisely that explanation when it comes to the most pressing and fascinating question of all: why is there something rather than nothing?
‘Tis a mystery. One that isn’t solved or explained by postulating a God about whom nothing tangible can be said or understood. Why do you act as if you’re owed an explanation for metaphysical puzzles anyway?
You and I are contingent in the measure that we had parents, that we eat and drink, and that we breathe. In a word, we don’t explain ourselves. Now if we want to understand why we exist, we cannot go on endlessly appealing to other contingent things. We must come finally to some reality which exists through the power of its own essence, some power whose very nature it is to be.But that whose very nature it is to be cannot, in any sense, be limited or imperfect in being, and this is precisely why Catholic philosophy has identified this non-contingent ground of contingency, this ultimate explanation of the being of the universe, as “God.”
1) Many Buddhists would be happy to explain to you how we can “go on endlessly appealing to other contingent things” to understand our existence. You’ll notice I didn’t say they will explain why we exist, which leads us to the next point.
2) The very question “Why do we exist?” is inherently invalid, resting as it does upon the unquestioned assumption that our existence itself is teleological by nature, something that is unclear and unproven, to put it mildly. “Purpose” is a human concept, a tool we use, not a built-in feature of life itself.
3) Anselm? Really?