Proof a Creator must be Absolute Simplicity

What did Richard Dawkins Overlook in the Major Thesis of The God Delusion when he said that “A designer would always have to be more improbable than anything it designed”? The response to this question is given in the eight-step proof below. Please note that only Steps (1) through (3) and Step (8) are given in the DVD presentation. The full proof (including Steps (4) through (7) may be of interest to those who are seeking the complete answer or who wish to teach or facilitate this material. Editor’s Note You may feel a bit overwhelmed by this response to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (2006 Bantam Books), because it is quite metaphysical. The response covers the basic content of one-half of a collegiate level metaphysics course, and so I would not expect you to have a deep understanding of the contents. Nevertheless, I did not want to oversimplify the response to Dawkins because it is a very popular misconception in today’s culture. I decided to err on the side of completeness rather than simplicity, and I hope you will be patient with this choice. In so doing, I hope that you will appreciate the richness and depth of the philosophical tradition beginning with Plato and Aristotle continuing through Augustine and Aquinas and continuing into the present with many modern philosophers cited below. I also hope that you would be able to understand the basic flow and solidity of the argument because it establishes not only the existence of an uncaused cause, but also the uniqueness, unrestricted nature, complete simplicity, transtemporality, and unrestricted intelligence of the Creator to which contemporary physics is pointing. At the same time, you will discover that Richard Dawkins has concluded to precisely the opposite conclusion that the logic and metaphysics of an uncaused cause require. Richard Dawkins’ core argument in the God Delusion may be summarized as follows:

1. A designer must always be more complex than what it designs.

2. Whatever is more complex is more improbable.

3. Therefore a designer will always be more improbable than what it designs.

There can be little doubt that Dawkins’ second premise (“whatever is more complex is more improbable”) is true, because the more complex a reality is, the more parts there are to order or organize. Since order or organization is more improbable than disorder, it follows that the more parts there are to order, the more improbable the ordering will be. However, Dawkins’ first premise is highly contestable and quite frankly, it ignores 2,400 years of philosophical history going back to Plato and Aristotle, then proceeding to Augustine and Aquinas and then to contemporary philosopher’s such as Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Joseph Owens, Josef Pieper, Bernard Lonergan, Karl Rahner, and all of their followers. All of these philosophers maintain that an uncaused cause (a Creator and designer) would have to be absolutely simple (a complete absence of complexity) instead of more complex. Ironically, this means by Dawkins second premise (“whatever is more complex is more improbable”), the Creator or designer would have to be the most probable reality of all.

Step (1) There Must be at Least One Uncaused Cause in all Reality.

Aristotle first formulated this proof (as an “Unmoved Mover” Proof) in Book 8 of the Physics and Book 12 of the Metaphysics. The Proof was later expanded to the “Uncaused Cause” Proof by Thomas Aquinas and there are many versions of it today (see for example, Chapter Nineteen of Bernard Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding). The essential elements of this Proof are as follows:

i. Definitions “Caused Cause:” A caused cause is a reality that does not exist through itself – it is dependent on causation for existence, and must therefore await causation in order to exist. Without causation, it is merely hypothetical, and literally nothing.

Causes include constituent parts or conditions for something to exist; for example, cells are composed of proteins and amino acids, which in turn are composed of molecules, which in turn are composed of atoms, etc. This would also include necessary structures and organizing components of those constituent parts, such as the particular structures of proteins, amino acids, molecules, etc. Without these constituent parts, conditions, and organizing structures, the cell would not exist. Additionally, any element “outside” of a reality necessary for its existence would also be a cause – such as light, water, and nutriment for a cell.

Uncaused Cause:” A reality which does not require any cause to exist. It exists purely through itself without any conditions whatsoever. As will be seen below, it must be the pure act of existing through itself.

ii. There must exist at least one Uncaused Cause. Basic Proof: If the whole of reality were composed only of caused causes (realities that must await causation to exist), then the whole of reality would be awaiting causation to exist because there would be no existing cause of their existence – the whole of reality would be literally nothing — awaiting causation to exist. Therefore, there must be at least one reality that does not have to await causation to exist (which exists through itself alone) and causes the existence of realities awaiting that causation. Without this uncaused cause, the whole of reality would be literally nothing.

Further Explanation: It does not matter whether one postulates an infinite number of caused causes (realities awaiting causation to exist), because an infinite number of postulated realities awaiting causation to exist (without an existing cause) is collectively still awaiting causation to exist – it is literally an infinite amount of nothing, and an infinite amount of nothing is still nothing.

Step (2) An Uncaused Cause must be the Pure Act of Existing through Itself.

As seen above, there must be at least one uncaused cause – at least one reality which does not have to await causation to exist. The one thing we know about this uncaused cause is that it must exist through itself alone (otherwise it too would be awaiting causation to exist). Thus, the uncaused cause must have the power to exist through itself, and more than this, that power must be active – it must be an acting power to exist through itself alone, and so Thomas Aquinas called it “the act of existing through itself alone.” Inasmuch as an uncaused cause would have to be an act of existing through itself alone, it must also be the pure act of existing through itself. The word “pure” here is important because there cannot be anything in the “act of existing through itself” which is different from it. If there were anything other than the “act of existing through itself” in it, that part or dimension of it would not exist through itself, and therefore, it would have to be caused. Since an uncaused cause cannot have a part or dimension which needs to be caused, it must be a pure “act of existing through itself.”

Step (3) A Pure Act of Existing through Itself must be Unrestricted.

Anything which restricts the pure act of existing through itself would have to be different from it because “what restricts” is different from what is restricted. What are these restrictions? There are three major categories of restrictions to the act of existing:

a. Restrictions as to a particular way of existing (such as the way of existing like an electron or a proton).

b. Temporal restrictions – which limit a reality to existing at particular times (through a temporal continuum which is divisible into earlier and later).

c. Spatial restrictions (which limits a being to existence at particular places through a spatial continuum which is divisible into “here and there”).

Whatever restricts “an act of existing” must be different from it, and so there must be two dimensions to every restricted reality – the act of existing and the restrictions to it. There can be no reality which is restrictions alone – there must be something which is restricted. A square object is not merely the limitations of square (four equal sides and four inscribed right angles) – it is something (in reality or in a mind) which has the restrictions of “four equal sides and four inscribed right angles.” An electron is not reducible to its restriction (attracting protons and repelling other electrons) – it is a reality which is restricted to attracting protons and repelling other electrons at particular magnitudes. Notice then that a reality is not reducible to its restriction – there must be something which is restricted. Notice further that these restrictions are different from the something which is restricted by them. Now, if every restriction is different from the “something that it restricts,” then the “pure act of existing through itself” cannot have any restriction in it. If it did, then these restrictions would be different from the act of existing through itself, and would therefore not exist through themselves, meaning that they would have to be caused. Therefore, the “pure act of existing through itself” cannot be restricted in any way whatsoever. Interestingly, Stephen Hawking seems to have recognized this in his book A Brief History of Time when he says,

“If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God…Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” (Hawking 1988 p. 174).

Hawking seems to recognize that the equations of physics describe only a set of parameters (limits such as maximums, minimums, and ratios of interaction) describing the particular actions and interactions of physical reality in space and time. They do not explain the existence of these parameters. The existence of physical reality is one thing and the equations of physics which describe its parameters are something different. They are unified with each other, but they are two different dimensions of physical reality. In the language we use above, there is the dimension of the act of existing (what breathes fire into the equations of physics) and the restrictions to existence (the parameters or equations of physics). In sum, every restriction to the act of existing through itself would have to be different from it, and would therefore not exist through itself, meaning that it would have to be caused. Since an uncaused cause cannot in any way be caused, the pure act of existing through itself must be completely unrestricted (that is, without any restriction to a particular place, time, or way of existing). This insight coincides with the Thomistic principle that “existence must precede essence.” “Existence” refers to the act of existing (like Hawking’s “what breathed fire into the equations …”). “Essence” refers to a way of existing such as the way of an electron or a proton or a cell or a person (like Hawking’s equations of physics). Now let us return to an act of existing through itself. It is clear that if an act of existing through itself had an essence other than itself – any way of acting (other than the act of existing through itself) – that essence would not exist through itself, and so it would have to be caused by “an act of existing through itself.” Any restriction to an act of existing through itself would have to be different from the act of existing through itself, and therefore would also have to be caused by the pure act of existing through itself. This means that a pure act of existing through itself must be prior to any restricted way of acting, because it would have to exist in a pure state prior to causing any restricted essence whatsoever. Thus, a pure act of existing through itself must be the most fundamental state of reality, and completely unrestricted. One last clarification. The term “unrestricted” refers to the absence of restriction within the act of existing through itself. It does not refer to an unrestricted (infinite) spatial continuum or temporal continuum, but rather to the complete absence of the spatial continuum and temporal continuum (which allow for restriction). Therefore, the act of existing through itself has no spatial restriction (and is not subject to a spatial continuum), no temporal restriction (and is not subject to a temporal continuum), and no restriction of any kind. Though it is virtually impossible to visualize what a non-spatial and non-temporal act of existence would be like, we must acknowledge that a pure act of existing through itself must be the most fundamental form of reality – because every restriction would have to be caused by it.

Step (4) A Pure Unrestricted Act of Existing through Itself Must be Unique (One & only one)

The Basic Proof (in three premises):

(i) If there is to be multiplicity among realities, there must be a difference between those realities.

(ii) If there is to be differences among realities, at least one of those realities must be restricted.

(iii) But there can be no restriction in the pure act of existing through itself (from Step (3) above).

Therefore, there cannot be more than one pure act of existing through itself (modus tollens).

Explanation of the Proof: The first premise is true a priori, because if there is no difference of any kind between two realities, they must be the self-same reality. Let us postulate two realities – X1 and X2. Now, let us suppose there is no difference between them – no difference as to space-time point, no difference in power or activity, no difference of qualities or characteristics, no difference whatsoever. What are they? Obviously, the same reality, and as such, there is only one. The second premise is also true a priori. Think about it. If there is going to be a difference between say X1 and X2 (so there can be a multiplicity of them), then one of them will have to be something or have something or be somewhere or be in some other dimension that the other one is not. Let’s suppose that X1 has something that X2 does not. This means that X2 is restricted or limited because it lacks this quality or characteristic. Similarly, if one postulates that X1 is something that X2 is not, than X2 would again have to be limited (as manifest by its lack of that “something”). The same would hold true if X1 was somewhere that X2 was not, and if X1 were in another dimension that X2 was not. In short, every differentiating factor will entail a restriction of at least one of the differentiated realities. The third premise has already been proved in Step (3) above (“But there can be no restriction in the pure act of existing through itself”). Let’s see how this works. Let us suppose that there are two pure acts of existing, then by the first premise, there will have to be some difference between Act of Existing1 and Act of Existing2. Recall if there are no differences whatsoever between them, then they would be the self-same reality (one reality). Now if there is a difference between them, then one of them will have to have something, be something, be somewhere, or be in another dimension that the other one is not. If one of the pure acts of existing is restricted as to what it is (its way of existing), or where it is (its space-time point or its dimension), then it could not be unrestricted. As was shown in Step (3) above, a pure act of existing through itself must be completely unrestricted (otherwise there would be something in it that needed to be caused). This would mean that every pure act of existing2 would have to have some kind of restriction, meaning that it could not be completely uncaused. This second pure act of existence therefore could not really be a pure act of existing through itself (a completely uncaused cause). Therefore, there can only be one pure act of existing through itself (and only one uncaused cause).

Step (5) The One Pure Act of Existing through Itself must be the Ultimate Cause (Creator) of all else that is.

(A) As shown above, an uncaused cause must be a pure unrestricted act of existing through itself, and there can only be one pure unrestricted act of existing through itself, meaning that there can only be one uncaused cause in all reality. (B) If there can only be one uncaused cause in all reality, then the rest of reality must be caused (brought into existence). (C) Therefore, the one uncaused cause must be the ultimate cause of the existence of everything in reality besides itself. This is what is meant by the term “Creator.”

Step (6) The One Unrestricted Act of Existing through Itself is Transtemporal

As we saw in Step (3) above, a pure unrestricted act of existing could not be subject to a temporal continuum because a temporal continuum would be different from it and would therefore have to be created by it. This means that the pure act of existing through itself is more fundamental than a temporal continuum, and that the temporal continuum is a creation –like a thought in the mind of a timeless and unrestricted act of mentation –see below Step (7). We must acknowledge at the outset, that a timeless act of mentation is impossible to visualize because as Kant pointed out in the Critique of Pure Reason, our experience (and imagination) is conditioned by space and time. So how can we conceive of something we cannot imagine (picture think)? We can only do this by a kind of via negativa – that is by a conceptual process which avoids the temporalizing dimension of the imagination (picture thinking). We will have to avoid trying to “get a picture of it,” and rest content with a negative judgment, namely, that there exists the pure unrestricted act of existing through itself which does not exist through a temporal continuum, nor through a spatial continuum, nor through anything else which is not itself. This pure act is beyond any specialized or temporalized image, and therefore beyond the universe and physical reality itself. Nothing more can be said without distorting the reality through the conditions of our spatial and temporal imagination.

Step (7) The Pure Unrestricted Act of Existing Through Itself Is an Unrestricted Act of Mentation (Thinking)

What is thinking? A detailed explanation of this is given in my book: New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Chapter Four). For the purposes of this Study Guide, a summary will be sufficient.

(A) Thinking (in contrast to imagining – or picture thinking) is the grasp of relationships among realities – qualitative relationships, causal relationships, quantitative relationships, logical relationships, temporal relationships, spatial relationships, and any other intelligible relationship responding to the questions “What?” “Where? “Why?” “How?” “How many?” and “How frequently?”

(B) The ability to grasp relationships presumes some underlying unity through which the differences among realities can be related. For example, a map can unify diverse geographical locations so that they can be seen in relation to one another. A clock provides a unity for different times so that they may be seen in relationship to one another. There must be some underlying unity to bring together causes and effects in causal relationships. Similarly, the same holds true for “What?” or “How?” or “How many?” etc. We might summarize by saying that thinking is a unifying act that sets differences into relationship with one another so that each aspect of the relationship can be understood through its relationship to the others.

(C) As noted above, the pure act of existing through itself has no spatial, temporal, or other intrinsic restriction. Therefore, it is completely transparent to itself – meaning that it is in relation to itself in every way – there is simply no spatial, temporal, or other restriction to prevent it. At the most fundamental level, this is thinking or intelligence – a unity among relationship. We might analogize this by our own act of self-consciousness in which the same reality is both “grasper” and “grasped”. This does not imply that we are divided into parts because it is one and the same being that is grasping and is grasped in the act of self-consciousness. Nevertheless, there are distinct dimensions of the same self within the relationship. Sometimes we can be aware of ourselves being aware of ourselves. Once again, we do not break into three parts, but the one self-conscious reality has three distinct relational dimensions: the grasper, the grasped, and the grasper grasping the act of grasping.

Let us return now to the pure unrestricted act of existing. Inasmuch as it is completely self-transparent, it can be present to itself (to use a precarious spatial analogy “inside” itself), and even present to itself being present to itself (“inside itself inside itself”). Inasmuch as it is naturally self-transparent, it is naturally self-conscious. Its natural state is self-consciousness (presence to self). Embedded in this self- consciousness, is an awareness of the difference between itself as grasper, grasped, and “grasper of the grasped,” and so there is not only an awareness of self, but an awareness of relational differences within itself. Once “self” and “difference” are grasped, all other ideas can be generated. The self can grasp not only itself, but what is different from itself – restriction and change. By grasping “self,” “difference,” “restriction,” and “change,” it can then generate the whole range of finite intelligibility. In his remarkable work The Sophist, Plato shows how the entire world of intelligibility can be generated from five primary ideas (“forms”): being, similarity, difference, change (“motion”), and the unchanging (“rest”). This key insight explains how a perfectly self-conscious reality (aware of the relational differences within its self-conscious act) will naturally generate the five primary ideas of Plato, and how these, in turn can generate the entire world of finite and changeable intelligibility. Notice that this unrestricted act of mentation is not like a brain or anything material or restricted. It is the natural state of a pure unrestricted act of existing through itself. We cannot visualize it or imagine it; we can only understand that it is the natural state of a pure unrestricted act of existence through itself and that the pure unrestricted act of existing through itself must exist (as the one necessary “uncaused cause”). Bernard Lonergan comes to a similar conclusion in his work Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, and calls the first cause “an unrestricted act of understanding understanding itself” (Chapter Nineteen – pp. 657-708 – 1992 University of Toronto Press). Inasmuch as the pure unrestricted act of existing though itself is an unrestricted act of thinking, it can design the entire world of finite being.

Step (8) The Pure Unrestricted Act of Existing through Itself must be Absolutely Simple (the absence of complexity).

Basic Argument: Complexity entails parts; parts entail restriction. But there can be no restriction in the pure act of existing through itself. Therefore, there can be no parts and no complexity in the pure act of existing through itself. Explanation: The first premise will probably be evident to you. Anything which is complex must have parts constituting a greater whole. Now if there are parts constituting a greater whole, the parts must be more restricted than the whole (by definition), and therefore the parts must have restrictions as to their time, space, or way of existing. The proof of the second premise (“there can be no restriction in the pure act of existing through itself”) was given in step (3) above. Conclusion: By modus tollens, if there can be no restrictions in the pure act of existing through itself, then there can be no parts in the pure act of existing through itself, and if no parts, then no complexity. It must be absolutely simple.

Response to Dawkins’ Contention

As noted in the introduction to this Chapter, Dawkins contended that every designer would have to be more complex than what it designed, and from this he concludes that every designer must be more improbable than what it designs because more complexity is always more improbable. We now see that Dawkins has overlooked about 2,400 years of philosophical history, and failed to notice that the uncaused cause (which is the Creator and designer) must be absolutely simple (the absence of complexity). If the above reasoning is correct, then the designer would not be more complex than what it designed, but rather much less complex than what it designed, indeed, the absence of complexity. If we combine the above conclusion with Dawkins’ second premise (more complexity is more improbable) –which is certainly true, then we get the remarkable result that an uncaused cause (the presumed designer) is the most probable reality of all. If more complexity is more improbable, then the absence of complexity is the least improbable of all (the most probable of all). This is precisely the conclusion that Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and their modern followers have already reached.

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