One of the most fundamental mistakes that people make, Father Coyne argued, is to construe God as one being among many within the cosmos, as though God is an unusually great and impressive thing alongside of the planets, galaxies and stars.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it undermines God’s status as the creator of the heavens and the earth, the one who brings the whole of finite reality into being from nothing. The Creator of the universe cannot be an object within the universe; the Maker of all things cannot be situated within the nexus of conditioned causes, just as the architect is not part of the building he designed or the author of a book one of the characters in it.
We shouldn’t, therefore, look for God as part of the “mechanics” of nature, as though he enters in a fussy way alongside of other competing causes. In accounting for the emergence of a planet, for example, we wouldn’t appeal to the detritus of a star, hydrogen gas, God, and the gravitational force! God is, instead, the answer to a different kind of question, viz., “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
This is precisely why Fr. Coyne is impatient with the advocates of intelligent design, who hold that, at certain points in the evolutionary process, God intervened to fine-tune things. He feels that this is not only scientifically superfluous but finally insulting to God. It’s also why he disagrees with one of his colleagues, the Anglican priest-scientist, John Polkinghorne, who argues that the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics gives God “room to work” as he pushes, pulls, and influences the cosmos.
Once again, the problem is an interventionist construal of the God-universe relationship. For the same reason, he disagrees with the Christopher Hitchenses and Richard Dawkinses of the world who maintain that “science” disproves the existence of God by showing that he is not ingredient in the causal processes of nature. Both the “new” atheists and the advocates of intelligent design need to get a clearer sense of who God is.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
View From the Pulpit - George Coyne - Catholic