William F. Buckley's Mind Takes Leave of Absence

Today on NPR's Morning Edition, William F. Buckley spoke about belief in God during the recurring "This, I believe" segment. His argument is so pathetic that one wonders if Buckley's brain isn't deteriorating. Unlike some of the politicians he supports, Buckley is (was?) an extremely sharp, nuanced thinker and writer. Which is why it's so disappointing that his case for God can be summed up as "Gosh, the universe sure is really, really complex. That's why I find it really, really hard to believe that God didn't make it." What Dawkins calls the "argument from personal incredulity"--and it's the least convincing of the bunch. Read on.

I've always liked the exchange featuring the excited young Darwinian at the end of the 19th century. He said grandly to the elderly scholar, "How is it possible to believe in God?" The imperishable answer was, "I find it easier to believe in God than to believe that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop."

That rhetorical bullet has everything -- wit and profundity.

Actually, it has neither. If it's clever, it's only because before its debut it murdered Cleverness and buried it in the back yard, leaving mediocrity to take its place.

It has more than once reminded me that skepticism about life and nature is most often expressed by those who take it for granted that belief is an indulgence of the superstitious -- indeed their opiate, to quote a historical cosmologist most profoundly dead. Granted, that to look up at the stars comes close to compelling disbelief -- how can such an arrangement be other than an elaboration -- near infinite -- of natural impulses? [Yet], on the other hand, who is to say that the arrangement of the stars is more easily traceable to nature, than to nature's molder?

It may surprise Mr. Buckley to learn that we have a pretty good idea of not only how the stars were formed but how they came to be arranged in the way that we now find them. To do this, we used outlandish methods such as "inductive reasoning" and "math." If Mr. Buckley wants to posit that a First Cause initiated the Big Bang or even has continually held a contingent universe in Being from eternity, fine. But this business about the arrangement of stars is preschool nonsense.

What is the greater miracle: the raising of the dead man in Lazarus, or the mere existence of the man who died and of the witnesses who swore to his revival?

Nice rhetoric. Unfortunately, that's all it is.

The skeptics get away with fixing the odds against the believer, mostly by pointing to phenomena which are only explainable -- you see? -- by the belief that there was a cause for them, always deducible. But how can one deduce the cause of Hamlet? Or of St. Matthew's Passion? What is the cause of inspiration?

Again with the Hamlet. Yes, the human brain is astonishingly complex. Therefore...nothing, Mr. Buckley.

This I believe: that it is intellectually easier to credit a divine intelligence than to submit dumbly to felicitous congeries about nature.

I doubt you mean that science is nothing more than "felicitous congeries about nature." You seem to've set up a straw man to knock down. Easy, isn't it? Much easier than trying to stretch your mind around the scientific account of the universe. Much easier than making an actual argument.

As a child, I was struck by [a] short story. It told of a man at a bar who boasted of his rootlessness, derisively dismissing the jingoistic patrons to his left and to his right. But later in the evening, one man speaks an animadversion on a little principality in the Balkans and is met with the clenched fist of the man without a country, who would not endure this insult to the place where he was born.

So I believe that it is as likely that there should be a man without a country, as a world without a creator.

Based on...nothing, complexity being an effect that doesn't testify as to its cause. Vapid. Stupid. Beneath you, Mr. Buckley.

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