IS THERE A GOD?
By Thomas Whitelaw, M.A., D.D.
III. THE BOAST OF THE MATERIALIST:
"I DO NOT NEED A GOD; I CAN RUN THE UNIVERSE WITHOUT ONE."
Only grant him to begin with an ocean of atoms and a force to set them in motion and he will forthwith explain the mystery of creation. If we have what he calls a scientific imagination, he will let us see the whole process,-the molecules or atoms circling and whirling, dancing and skipping, combining and dividing, advancing and retiring, selecting partners and forming groups, closing in their ranks and opening them out again, building up space-filling masses, growing hotter and hotter as they wheel through space, whirling swifter and swifter, till through sheer velocity they swell and burst, after which they break up into fragments and cool down into a complete planetary system.
Inviting us to light upon this globe, the materialist will show us how through long centuries, mounting up to millions of years, the various rocks which form the earth's crust were deposited.
Nay, if we will dive with him to the bottom of the ocean he will point out the first speck of dead matter that sprang into life, protoplasm, though he cannot tell when or how. Having startled us with this, he will lead us up the Great Staircase of Nature with its 26 or 27 steps, and tell us how on this step the vegetable grew into an animal, and how after many more steps the animal became a man, and thus the whole evolutionary drama will be unrolled.
Concerning this theory of the universe, however, it is pertinent to make these remarks:
1. Taken at its full value, with unquestioning admission of the alleged scientific facts on which it is based, it is at best only an inference or working hypothesis, which may or may not be true and which certainly cannot claim to be beyond dispute.
2. So far from securing universal acceptance, it has been repudiated by scientists of the highest repute.
"The Kant-Laplace theory of the origin of the solar system by the whirling masses of nebulous matter, till rings flew off and became the worlds we see," says a German writer, "can no more be defended by any scientist" (Neue Kirchliche Zeitschrift, 1905; p. 957). The attempt to explain in this way the origin of the universe, says Merz, can be described as "belonging to the romance of science" (European Thought in the 19th Century, p. 285). Indeed Laplace himself put it forward "with great reserve, and only as a likely suggestion" (ibid., p. 285). As regards the derivation of man from the lower animals, it is enough to remember that the late Prof. Virchow maintained that "we cannot designate it as a revelation of science, that man descends from the ape or from any other animal" (Nature, Dec. 8, 1877); that Professor Paulsen, speaking of Haeckel, says "he belongs already to a dead generation," and calls his theory of materialistic evolution "an example of incredible frivolity in the treatment of serious problems" (see Princeton Review, October, 1906, p. 443); that Professor Von E. Pfenningsdorf declares "the materialistic explanation of the world to be untenable" (see Theologische Rundschau, 1905, p. 85); that Fleischman in his book, "Die Desendenz Theorie," denies evolution altogether; that Dr. Rudolph Otto admits that "popular Darwinism (Darwinisms Vulgaris)," by which he means "that man is really descended from monkeys," is "theoretically worthless" (Naturalism and Religion, p. 94); and that Prof. Pettigrew of Andrew's University writes: "There is, it appears to me, no proof that man is directly descended from the ape, and indirectly from the mollusc or monad" (Design in Nature, Vol. III, p. 1324).
3. Conceding all that evolutionists demand, that from matter and force the present cosmos has been developed, the question remains, whether this excludes or renders unnecessary the intervention of God as the prime mover in the process.
If it does, one would like to know whence matter and force came. For the atoms or molecules, formerly supposed to be ultimates and indivisible, have now been proved by science to be manufactured and capable of being analyzed into myriads of electrons; and it is hardly supposable that they manufactured themselves. Moreover, one would like to know how these atoms or electrons came to attract and repel one another and form combinations, if there was no original cause behind them and no aim before them? If even matter be construed as a form of energy, or force, the difficulty is not removed, since force in its last analysis is the output of will and will implies intelligence or conscious personality.
From this conclusion escape is impossible, except by assuming that matter and force existed from eternity; in which case they must have contained in themselves the germs of life and intelligence-in other words must themselves have been God in posse, if not in esse, in potentiality if not in reality.
But against this pantheistical assumption must ever lie the difficulty of explaining how or why the God that was latent in matter or force was so long in arriving at consciousness in man, and how before man appeared, the latent God being unconscious could have directed the evolutionary process which fashioned the cosmos. Till these inquiries are satisfactorily answered, it will not be possible to accept the materialistic solution of the universe.