New England
Students on bus
Students on the bus to Williamstown and Tanglewood


On the heels of a busy Thursday night came a pensive Friday morning, as members of the New England High School Summer Program began the day considering various arguments for the existence of God.

In yesterday’s afternoon class, students contemplated Pascal’s famous “wager” from the Pensées. Pascal argues that, absent definitive proof, man should operate under the assumption that God exists. He puts the matter in betting terms, explaining that, if there is no God, the believer’s belief will cost him very little, but if God does exist, then the believer’s faith will win him eternal life.

That may be so, but is there not a better case to be made for God than “play the odds”?

That brings us to this morning’s class, in which students considered two very different but complementary texts.

The first is Jean Henri Fabre’s detailed account of the workings of bees. Fabre’s descriptions of insect life reflect brilliantly complex operations performed by hopelessly simple-minded creatures. The insects partake in a process far beyond their comprehension, yet essential to their existence, offering the hint of a design and, thus, a Designer. St. Thomas Aquinas makes this argument explicitly in the students’ second reading, from the Summa Theologiae. In one of his “Five Proofs” for the existence of God, St. Thomas contends that “whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence … Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.”

As one prefect described it, “With Aquinas, we looked at a reasoned argument for faith, as opposed to Pascal’s probabilistic argument.” And so, drawing upon three of history’s greatest thinkers in a variety of disciplines, the students made a good “first start,” into the question of God’s existence. What a way to start the day!

Thus concluded the academic portion of the week. There is no second class today, as students are making an off-campus excursion, first to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and then an all-Beethoven concert — featuring renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma — at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We will have a full recap and photos in Saturday morning’s SummerBlog post!