Show me an article on anything pertaining to faith, science, God, religion, metaphysics, or Christianity, and I’ll show you a spawning combox battle between new atheists and Abrahamic believers. New atheism is a doctrine with public appeal and staying power.
Enter Michael Augros’s new book Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence (Ignatius Press, 2015). Augros, who teaches philosophy at Thomas Aquinas College in California, sets out to prove the existence of a first cause and several of its attributes and incisively dismantle one of new atheism’s lynchpin arguments. Addressing the book to “all educated readers with an interest in tracking down the first cause,” he eschews recourse to theological argumentation and scientific theories that exceed the typical reader’s interest or ability. Instead, he appeals to self-evident truths, simple philosophical models, and mundane examples.
Can rational reflection disclose that the universe has a first cause, even if one holds the universe’s causal chain to be infinite (as Aristotle did) or its temporal beginning to be unprovable (as Aquinas did)? Yes, Augros says: If caused causes lacked a first cause, they would constitute a “middle with nothing before it”; a chain hanging from nothing, as it were. So, if we accept the reality of caused causes, we must admit a first cause.
Yet Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others have questioned this logic. If God created the world, who created God? Isn’t it arbitrary that the first cause needs no cause? If not, why must “god” be the first cause, rather than, say, matter? If an infinite regression of simultaneously acting causes existed, there might not seem a need for a first cause. If there’s no need for a first cause, there’s no need for belief in God. Augros soundly answers each of these questions in turn, exposing the fallacious logic of common atheist responses.
He begins by establishing the need for a first cause and showing that there is at most one first cause. Many atheists agree that the world needs a first cause and that there is one first cause and argue that that cause is simply matter. The new atheism stakes its claim on materialism, the view that no non-material realities exist.
Augros dismantles this claim with ease. Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space, he explains. It can assume new forms and persist through changes from one thing to another (as lumber to a house). In either sense matter is mobile.
But the first cause cannot be a motion of some kind. Motion exists only if mobiles exist. But the first cause’s existence is not dependent in this way. So it cannot be motion.
Nor can it have motion of any kind. It isn’t possible for the same thing to give and receive the same thing at the same time, so nothing can give and receive its own motion to and from itself. Only something that has a real distinction in its being between what is causing its motion and what is receiving but not causing its motion can be said to “move itself.” The first cause cannot fit this description, though, if it could, its first part—the one receiving motion—isn’t truly a first cause, since it is acted upon by another dimension of a being, and only that other dimension, imparting the motion, is self-existent and therefore immobile. “There simply is no way to get the first cause to have any motion,” Augros concludes. Yet matter is mobile by nature.
Augros thus sounds a death knell to the theory that matter, fundamental particles, or anything like them can be the first cause.
The remainder of the book proceeds to establish attributes of the first cause: It is unchangeable, nonbodily, perfectly actual intelligence—and hence is a “who,” what Augros calls a “god” (small-g) “and the designer of all nature.”
All of these arguments have been made before. What makes Who Designed the Designer? special?
Augros takes aim at new atheism and its horses, including one of its revered ancestors, Bertrand Russell, and in so doing synthesizes his argument’s philosophical potency with strong responses to the new atheists’ cultural and aesthetic arguments as well, and so responds to an uncommonly broad array of objections. This innovative combination makes the book essential reading for contemporary people of faith interested in religious philosophy and the relationship between faith and culture.
The book is also highly accessible. Augros writes clearly and for the non-philosopher. He compiles in an appendix every single argument he makes in the book, in its deductive form, stripped of anecdotes and examples, providing an excellent summary.
Who Designed the Designer? is important and rewarding reading for honest participants in society’s shrill discussion of belief and atheism, and science and metaphysics. Accessible and enjoyable yet rigorous, manageable (244 pages) yet challenging, it has the potential to instill fresh confidence in reason’s ability to dethrone new atheism and prove the reality of the divine mind.