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SMAD. An Organ of Student Opinion. 1935. Volume 6. Number 11.

The Cockpit

page 3

The Cockpit

Kelly On Kagawa.

Dear "Smad,"

No amount of discussion about the existence of God will ever conclusively prove the case for either atheism or theism. At the outset I will state that I believe God (not in Him or about Him, you will notice), for none other than the bare fact that God has personally intervened in my life. This is a testimony, not a proof. Mael did well, therefore, to note that Dr. Kagawa's highly illuminating scientific address was primarily an attack on the mechanist interpretation of the universe rather than a formal Christian apologetic. Mael says: "We admit that there is some quality of basic reality—but to call it God or to suggest that it must be intelligent is worse than arbitrary." Yet his purely "naturalistic explanation" is no explanation at all. To me it seems that this hypothesis that Reality is an organic process, a process of dialectal development "and nothing more," is merely tautological and tantamount to denying that Reality is, in essence, supra-natural.

I disagree with his contention that we should have cause to suspect intelligence in the universe if matter varied its behaviour in identical circumstances That is to say, if one day you could be sure of falling to the floor and the next to the ceiling. "All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption—a false assumption. It is supposed that, if a thing goes on repeating itself, it is probably dead. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to Known fact. For variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life but by death. A man varies his movement because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. That is why children are always such a nuisance to grown-ups. They are always saying, "Do it again." Now the repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence. It may be that God makes every daisy separately because He never gets tired of making them." (Chesterton). Mael speaks of the evolutionary agencies as of blind forces. Surely if modern science is stressing any fact it is that the old ideas of mechanical physics and the cause-effect relationships must give away before the more accurate description embodied in mathematical abstractions. On the other hand, the idea of evolution in nature has no direct connection with the validity of religious belief. Surely, if nature is a mere unrolling, then the end of the world might be mere light of mere darkness, and it might come as slowly and inevitably as dusk and dawn. But if the end of the world is to be a piece of elaborate and artistic chiaroscuro, then there must be a dominant design. The supra-natural explanation is at least as rational as the naturalistic. In reference to tigers and antelopes, the evolutionary theory does not tell man how to cope with nature. You may be in-humane or humane, but not human. Naturalism does not tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably—i.e., to admire his stripes whilst avoiding his claws.

With regard to pain and evil. It must be borne in mind that whilst pain seems to be universal it is not necessarily evil, and since each person or animal has to hear its own pain the problem of pain is not really intensified by the fact that it is sometimes presented to us in the lurid light and with the magnified and grotesque shadows of wholesale calamity. Death is a physical fact. The problem of evil is an unsolvable, not a hopeless mystery. I say that evil is the problem of self-ness, whether it results in selfishness, exploitation, murder or destruction. Mael has introduced once more the laws of nature in the world of mankind. A last word. Is not his quotation from McCabe ironically enough the truth? Science is concerned with the "how," religion with the "why." Surely scientific method (of the facts of His life, death and resurrection) must attempt to weigh how far the claims of Christ do show that the fact of evil is not insurmountable.

B. H. Kelly.

Another Point of View.

Dear "Smad,"

I was one of those who went to Dr. Kagawa's meeting, and I was impressed by his record-breaking non-stop tour through the mysterious universe, if hardly convinced by his arguments of the existence of a Great Mathematician. A letter in the last issue of "Smad" seems to me to blast absolutely Dr. Kagawa's redressing of those musty and somewhat irrelevant arguments. (How, anyway, does a vague principle of order in nature—God—the Christian religion?)

In this letter I'm concerned only with the apparently impressive and impeccable scientific authorities whom Dr. Kagaw dragged in to implement his case—notably with the physicsts and astronomers. (There's hardly space to go through the biologists and psychologists.) These were the inevitable combination—Jeans and Eddington. An outbreak of piety on the part of these two men has given the "theists" what they like to think a new lease of life in the "backing of religion by modern science."

Religious apologists and propagandists are fond of quoting Eddington when he turns from astronomy to physics and, against the view of the great majority of physicists, says that we find no vigorous causation of the movements of electrons. But none of these (nor Dr. Kagawa) reproduces Eddington's repeated warning against "basing religion on scientific discoveries" or his repeated statement that on his own science, astronomy, no expert now says that the heavens proclaim the glory of God.

In his writings Eddington cheerfully assures his public that the new physics has swept away "mechanical conceptions." Religious folk naively understand this to mean a refutation of materialism and an advantage to religion. But what they do not know, what this astronomer writing on physics does not warn them, is that some of the most distinguished masters of physics are flatly opposed to what Eddington says about that science. Professor Planck, author of the Quantum Theory, wrote recently in his "The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics":

"The foundations of the structure of classical physics not only proved unshakeable, but actually were rendered firmer through the incorporation of new ideas." It seems incongruous to speak of an abandonment of mechanical principles when one of the most important sections of physics to-day is the study of wave-mechanics.

A final point Dr. Kagawa neglected to inform us about Jeans and Eddington that they are both, Philosophically speaking, idealists. Thus, in an interview, published in the "Observer" of January 11, 1931, Sir James Jeans said: "I incline to the idealistic theory that consciousness is fundamental, and that the material universe is derivative from consciousness, not consciousness from the material universe." Eddington has spoken similarly. Dr. Kagawa and other religious lecturers have assured their listeners that these two eminent scientiste have admitted that there is mind or thought in the material universe, and have taken this to be an acceptance of the design-argument. It seems a pity that they were not clearly informed from the start that it meant, not that there is mind in a material universe, but that the universe exists only in the human mind. So the principle of order exists not in the material world, but in consciousness. Whatever else this may be, it certainly is not "modern science."


Dear "Smad,"

The Exec. appointed Mr Birks Records Officer of the University. Could you, through your columns, inform us what the duties of this office are? Does Mr. Birks keep a scrap-book of press cuttings and photographs on University affairs? Does he keep a diary of every event of any importance in the University year? Does he keep a record of the careers of outstanding past students? If he does these things, or any of them, are the records open for inspection, and if so, where and when?



Friday is my day

In the Caf. at V.U.C.

It's the day for fish and chips,

Warm and tasty to my lips,

Coffee hot (in hasty sips)

On Friday—my day.


What did the Labour councillor do when he was told he was the father of quintuplets —Demanded a recount.