Is God fair? We have to assume that God will punish, harshly, those who do not believe his word. In which case, why did God design the universe in such a way that those of an intelligent and inquisitive disposition would conclude that the universe was not designed by God in the way he said he designed it?
Take the case of epicycles, of which ‘Belette’ comments
“The massive difference, now, over say Copernican days is that the observations and calculating ability we have are so much better than before. It is no longer possible tlo believe in epicycles, because observations demonstrate clearly that they don't work, except in the trivial sense that any path can be fit by enough epicycles to an arbitrary degree of precision.”
I agree. One of Galileo’s motivations for his heliocentric theory was his observation of the phases of Venus
. These cannot be observed properly without a telescope. Venus is lit by the sun from angles that are not consistent with the Ptolemaic system. There is a good explanation of this in the Wikipedia article
on the Ptolemaic system. Why did God design the geocentric system in such a complex way that those of an inquisitive disposition, after inventing telescopes, would observe such apparent inconsistencies? In 1838, Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel
successfully measured the parallax of the star 61 Cygni, which is also difficult to explain in the geocentric system. Why did God go to the trouble of designing the geocentric universe in such a complicated way that an detailed observations such those of Bessel appeared to contradict the way God said (in the Bible) that he had in fact designed things?
Note, I am not
arguing that the geocentric model is wrong. What I mean is that, if God says
it is correct, and if, as seems to be the case, detailed observation and deduction (such as by Galileo and Bessel) suggests that it is not
correct, and if God punishes harshly those who disbelieve
what he says, then it seems as though God is not being fair
. He has designed the universe in such a way that the way it appears to be designed is not the way he has said
it was designed, and thus designed it in a way that invites punishment of the inquisitive and intelligent.
What reply can we make to this? Well, we could avoid fundamentalism by distinguish between literal and analogical truths. When it says in Psalm 93 that “the world also is established, that it cannot be moved”, perhaps it does not mean that the earth is literally immoveable. Perhaps it is immoveable in a spiritual sense. Or that it cannot be moved from its orbit around the sun, all things being equal. Perhaps it is a statement about the constancy of physical constants, such as gravitational acceleration etc. Yes, that is a reasonable objection, but then we can turn the whole question around. Why did God make statements that are so easily open to a literalist misinterpretation? If so, then it seems God is discriminating against fundamentalists. Is that fair? Surely not.
Or it could be argued that the inquisitive and intelligent are simply wrong. A careful examination of the matter (see the websites linked to in earlier posts
) shows that the geocentric theory is the correct one. I reply: whichever theory is correct, it remains that God’s design has misled an extraordinary large number of people. Either he is being unfair to astronomers and scientists, or he is being unfair to fundamentalists. We have to choose, and either way it seems that he is not being entirely fair.
Or it could be argued that the inquisitive and intelligent have violated a version of the charity principle
. They have followed a line of observation and reasoning that leads them to conclude that God has not told the truth. But logic, as well as the principle, should tell them that God would not have designed the universe in such a way as to contradict what he says. If any theory or reasoning of yours leads to a contradiction with sacred scripture or the teaching of the church, there is something wrong with your reasoning. Indeed, as Ockham argues – as discussed in my last post
), we should even make exceptions to the laws of logic when this happens*.
So, is God not being fair to someone? And is that not inconsistent with an essence into which goodness, justice, fairness etc. are built into as though by definition?
* Yes, I realise that Ockham’s point is more subtle than that. But this is internet land, where we lay things on with trowels.
Labels: geocentrism, God, science