Why There Almost Certainly is a God

Phil: I’m a god.”
Rita: You’re God?”
Phil: I’m a god. I’m not the God… I don’t think.“

Groundhog Day


HEADLINE: MODERN SCIENCE POINTS TO THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

I believe in God. I believe in the God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Benjamin. I believe in the God of Christianity, the Trinitarian God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I also believe in a god: the transcendent cause of everything. It is a winding road from god to God, but like Inigo Montoya, I’ll go back to the beginning. After all, the beginning is precisely where science points to god. Really.

Big-Bang-TheoryYou see, all the information we have indicates that the Universe had a beginning. Whether they believe that was 10,000 years ago or 13.8 billion, the vast majority of people agree. Math, physics, cosmology, metaphysics and logic all dictate this same conclusion, and the main holdouts tend to be those who desire to avoid the conclusions that a “beginning” requires. These are the conclusions that I will present here.

[NOTE: There are technical justifications behind the claims here that I will mostly avoid, but I am more than willing to expound or direct anyone who wants to the details. For example, the first part of this post is essentially a breakdown of the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God, popularized largely due to the efforts of William Lane Craig.]

I. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Borrowing an illustration from Richard Taylor, let’s suppose you and a friend were walking through the woods and found a ball. Whatever else you thought, you would certainly assume that it was there for a reason. Maybe someone dropped it, maybe there are some kids nearby, maybe someone threw it out. Regardless, you can only assume that there is a cause behind its being there in the woods. Now let’s say that the ball is the size of a house: you would still believe there was something (or someone) that caused it to be there. If it were the size of Jupiter, or the galaxy, or the whole Universe, there still has to be a cause: the size doesn’t change the commonsense assumption that something caused it to exist. We have absolutely no experience with anything coming into existence on its own. “Nothing comes from nothing,” so to speak.

woods-ball

This is not my ball…

II. The Universe began to exist.

As I stated above, all evidence we have points to the Universe having a beginning. For a relatively brief period of time, many people believed that the Universe was eternal – that it had always been here. In addition to scientific discoveries and theories, there are numerous mathematical and metaphysical reasons that it cannot be eternal. What is widely agreed upon is that the Universe began to exist. Therefore, it had a cause. But what kind of being/object could possibly qualify as the case of our Universe?

III. The cause of the Universe has to be god.

This is not as controversial as it may sound at first (but mainly because I used a lower-case “g”). To make it simple, I will list the requirements for a cause of the Universe, along with why I believe they are required. While the ideas are somewhat complicated (and there is much room to expand the justifications), the conclusion is worth understanding the premises:

  1. Beyond time and space – in order to cause time and space, it must necessarily not be a part of either.
  2. Extremely powerful – it takes an enormous amount of power to cause an entire Universe to come into being.
  3. Eternal – If the cause began to exist, it would have a cause itself. Because an infinite regress is impossible, a stopping point must exist. The “uncaused cause” will be this point, wherever you choose to place it.
  4. Immaterial – it is estimated that every seven years, a person is fundamentally a completely different set of particles than before (cells die, new ones are created, etc.). This concept applies to all material objects, and so the initial cause must be immaterial, else it would experience the same eternally continuous change.
  5. Personal – this only means that the cause must have the attributes of a person (e.g. freedom to choose, an active will, etc.). First of all, a mere object has no ability to cause anything. Secondly, if a cause exists from all eternity without change, then the effect would necessarily result infinitely long ago, as well; therefore, the cause must choose to bring the Universe into existence. In fact, the cause must be an unembodied mind, because it has the attributes of personhood, but cannot be a physical being.

Following these assertions, we end up with a spaceless, timeless, very powerful, immaterial, eternal, personal cause of the Universe. While this is not necessarily a monotheistic, moral Creator god – much less the God of Christianity – we can easily see the attributes of a god. Even if the Universe was created by a race of super-intelligent beings, is the offspring of a “mother” universe, or simply a part of a larger “multiverse,” somewhere behind it all there must be the uncaused cause, with all the attendant attributes listed above.

beautiful-space-universe

“BUT…”

As with any logical argument, you must deny one of the premises in order to deny the conclusion; to do so requires payment of some sort. If you deny that everything that exists has a cause (I), then you are going beyond all experience, science, and metaphysics. If you deny that the Universe began to exist (II), then you are claiming that it is eternal, which carries a similar intellectual price, albeit based on a different set of evidences. Since the conclusion – the Universe had a cause – is the logical conclusion, then the final point of contention would be over the attributes of a possible cause of the Universe (III). Each point can be countered, to be sure, but to do so carries a hefty price tag, essentially paid to avoid the existence of God.

Socrates implored us to follow the evidence where it leads, and the same slogan is regularly pointed at Christians of various persuasions. Clearly, however, dogmatism is not merely a characteristic of the religious.


 

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”

– Romans 1:20-23

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13 Responses to Why There Almost Certainly is a God

  1. tsaebxiii says:

    So, I’ll start by saying that I’m a theologically orthodox Christian; I don’t make this argument to disprove God’s existence, but to point out that the cosmological argument isn’t quite as strong a case for a god as you assert. I wholeheartedly believe that God exists, and that he has revealed himself through creation and Scripture, and I do believe there are many good reasons for that. The cosmological argument contributes to that, but not with the strength you suggest. The premise that I would question is that an uncaused cause would necessarily be personal. If, hypothetically, there were a transcendent law of physics that was beyond the universe as we understand it that was capable of producing a universe, that would be sufficient to fulfil the other four criteria required for the uncaused cause. To unpack the reasons that you give for the fifth criterion:
    1) An object has no ability to cause: I don’t necessarily disagree with this statement, but a transcendent law of physics would not be an object
    2) An eternal, unchanging cause would necessarily have created eternally long ago and therefore the cause must be able to choose: I disagree with this on two grounds. Firstly, the notion of “infinitely long ago” is meaningless from the perspective of the uncaused cause. Time is a dimension of the universe; something that transcends space transcends time as we understand it. Secondly, we have no reference point as to when/where in eternity the universe was created. For all we know, the universe came into existence in the “first” instant of infinity (the absurdity of that statement highlights my previous point). Thirdly, even if we accept that a cause with an inability to choose should have caused the universe sooner than it did, it could be a cause with a probabilistic element. Modern physics demonstrates that, within the universe, there are laws that are probabilistic. If the transcendent law is also probabilistic, and particularly if the probability of the universe coming into existence as a result of the law is very low, it could take an exceptionally long portion of infinity for an unchanging law to randomly produce the universe without ever choosing to do so.
    So, in summary, there is no necessity for the uncaused cause to be personal, and thus it need not be a god. The cosmological argument requires the existence of something transcending the universe that is eternal (which is nevertheless useful in discussions with atheists who fall back on the old “who created God” question, since all explanations of the universe require an uncreated entity of some form), but it does not require that to be a personal entity. The argument from morality tends to be a more effective way of demonstrating the need for a personal god, as do the teleological and anthropological arguments.

    • ajfits7 says:

      You make an important clarification: claiming that something is temporally prior to its effect when time does not yet exist is an incoherent statement. In an attempt to make the argument easier to understand, I made a classic error. A better formulation of the premise would be that if something has causal power, yet lacks a will, then the effect would also exist from an infinite time past, if it is in time. If not, then a will is required to create, because an abstract object is the only other option for what could exist, and abstract objects don’t have causal power. In time or out, a will is required to change from a state without creation to one with it.

      Even a “transcendent law of physics” has no causal power: it is a description of what actually happens in the Universe, rather than something that causes objects to behave in a particular way. And there cannot actually be an infinite series of events, and the absurd conclusions that would result are a testament to this fact. If there were, then all events, regardless of their improbability, would already have occurred.

      I do appreciate the comment, not only for the clarification, but also for the thoughtful response.

      • tsaebxiii says:

        I would still be inclined to disagree. I enjoy a good debate, so as long as you’re happy to do so, I’d rather like to continue further with this discussion.
        Restating some basic points, the cosmological argument clearly demonstrates the need for an uncaused cause. Because time and space are both part of the universe, anything that created the universe must transcend time and space. Therefore, there is “somewhere” and/or something that exists beyond time and space – I’ll call this “Infinity” (with a capital) to save defining it each time I refer to it. While a time relationship between Infinity and the universe is meaningless – Infinity exists before, after and during the universe simultaneously – a causal relationship is not. The universe is caused from Infinity. The question is then regarding the nature of Infinity.
        Within any deistic understanding of existence, Infinity is either a deity or the location where one or more deities dwell and the deity/ies dwelling within it. In this understanding, the uncaused cause/s is/are personal; it/they have a will. Here we have a personal Infinity. Even if a personal Infinity is always capable of creating, it need not happen at any particular time; the fact that Infinity’s ability to create is guided by a will explains why there would be a state change from no creation to creation.
        We then consider whether it would be possible for an impersonal Infinity to exist that could cause a state change from no creation to creation. If an impersonal Infinity is completely static, then it is either always capable of creating or never capable. If it is always capable, there should never have been a beginning of the universe, because it would be co-eternal with Infinity. On the other hand, if it isn’t capable at all, then there would be no universe. It is obvious that a purely static, impersonal Infinity is logically impossible.
        What about an impersonal Infinity that is not entirely static? Is this even possible? I would argue that it is possible – the easiest way to conceive of such an idea is to have an Infinity that is probabilistic, defined by a static set of probabilities. If the probability of creation occuring is sufficiently low (here we play in the mathematical concepts of cardinality and infintisimals to explain how there could be a probability so small that, when multiplied by an infinite number of trials, results in a finite number of successes). Such an Infinity could, perhaps, be described most accurately as a “creative force”; an Infinite force that eternally has the possibilitiy to create, but with such a low probability that creation is not co-Infinite with the creative force. The nature of the uncaused cause is then an impersonal force that was never created, but that is an instrinsic part of the Infinite reality.
        Now, I’ll add again at this point that I don’t think this is the explanation that best explains all of the evidence, but when it comes purely to the cosmological argument, it offers an explanation as to why it is not necessary for the uncaused cause to be personal.

      • ajfits7 says:

        I always enjoy the debate. It is easy to find people who agree with you, and then retreat into a comfortable bubble where ideas aren’t challenged, and the ideas of those who disagree with you are caricatures and rumors. I will always learn more from those who disagree with me than those who agree (although it’s always nice to get an “attaboy” from time to time!). I would also agree with the explanatory power of the other arguments for the existence of God. They are cumulative arguments, so we are in the fortunate position of not having to choose just one. Each contributes its own weight, and if honestly taken together, the case begins to become so powerful as to be all but irrefutable.

        As for “an impersonal infinity that is not entirely static,” one of the attributes that is presumed to be required of a cause of the Universe is that it must be changeless (not to be confused with immutable). I didn’t include this one, because I feel I need to think about that some more before I am willing to assert that. However, some pretty good authorities make that claim, so I am inclined to lean in that direction until I have a good reason to refute it. That said, I cannot conceive of how probability can be factored into the equation (which of course doesn’t mean that it’s impossible). That something has a probability of occurring (however low), implies that its causal properties are externally determined, caused, or regulated, which just pushes the problem back one degree.

  2. Repeating the cosmological argument as if it hadn’t been refuted before thousands of times… How do you expect anyone to take you seriously if you don’t take the five minutes it takes to even scratch on the surface of the dozens of problems with these arguments? Instead of typing, you should invest your time into reading.

    • ajfits7 says:

      While I appreciate you taking the time to reply, I would prefer that you offer a refutation or two yourself. I have read many rebuttals and arguments against it, and I have found appropriate, consistent, and powerful answers to the objections. I did not outline the full justification for each point, but be assured that there is much more behind each premise. I am more than happy to answer any objections you have, but I would ask you to present which of the premises you disagree with and why, to allow me to know what I am actually responding to.

  3. Even while I was still a Christian, I have never found any of the Cosmological family of arguments to be very convincing.

    Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    While the Kalam Cosmological Argument uses this premise to refer to the Efficient Cause of a thing, this applies equal to the Material Cause of a thing. If you assert that all experience, physics, and metaphysics point to the fact that a thing which begins to exist has an Efficient Cause, you must also concede that all experience, physics, and metaphysics point to the fact that a thing which has an Efficient Cause also has a Material Cause. However, this is in direct contradiction with traditional Christian theology, which holds to a doctrine of “creatio ex nihilo.”

    Personally, I do not agree with the Premise, at all. I do not believe that it has been demonstrated that whatever begins to exist has a cause. It is a fallacy of composition to say that because certain objects within the universe began to exist by causation, therefore the universe, itself, began to exist by causation.

    Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
    Another premise with which I disagree. While apologists like to claim that the Big Bang Theory shows that the entire universe came into being almost 14 billion years ago, it actually does no such thing. All the Big Bang Theory tells us is that 14 billion years ago, spacetime underwent a rapid expansion. It does not tell us what created that spacetime, nor how it was created. Nor does it claim that all of material reality originated in that instant.

    Premise 3: The cause of the universe has to be god.
    Even if I grant the first two premises in their entirety, it does not follow that the cause of the universe must be god. Nothing requires the causal entity to be personal. Non-personal entities cause far more, in the universe, than do personal ones. As a quick example, the Sun causes spacetime to bend around it, which in turn causes the Earth to move towards the Sun. The Sun is not a personal entity, yet it is quite distinctly a causal entity.

    Thanks for your post! I look forward to your replies!

    • ajfits7 says:

      Thank you for commenting, especially for detailing your objections, which both educates me and challenges me to respond with as much integrity and thought.

      Objection I: I am not sure why a material cause follows from the necessity of an efficient cause. I understand that our experience demonstrates this (as you mentioned), and I am sensitive to the fallacy of composition. However, the argument states only that the Universe has a cause. The nature of this cause is not explored until after the argument itself is accepted, at which time it is evident that it cannot be material, because there can be no material where there is nothing, else we find ourselves in an infinite regress. In this particular instance, it is the conclusion that the cause must be immaterial, not the KCA itself, that you are refuting.

      Objection II: All currently accepted theories point to the beginning of the Universe. The Big Bang Theory is more than just the explanation of the expansion from a singularity, and both the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theory and the Hartle-Hawking No Boundary Proposal agree with the Standard Model (B.B.T.) that the Universe had a beginning. There are no viable contemporary theories that allow for an eternal Universe. It is certainly possible that the Universe was created by another Universe, some other personal force, or something as yet unconceived, but even that cause would itself require a cause. There can be no infinite regress, and so there must be an uncaused cause at the causal beginning.

      Objection III: I completely agree that “Non-personal entities cause far more, in the universe, than do personal ones.” But again, that is within the Universe, where time, space and material all exist. There are processes and change, reactions and dissolutions. In the state before this was true, a will had to be involved with causation, as I mentioned in my reply to tsaebxiii. The sun, for example,was set in motion by a prior cause, and it’s causal properties are themselves remnants of other causes. This would not apply to the first cause.

      Thanks again, and I hope to hear back.

      • Thanks again, for your responses!

        I.) The KCA builds upon an Aristotelian view of Causation. Causation, in Aristotle’s view, is composed of some necessary elements, including the Efficient Cause and the Material Cause. Aristotle’s view of Causation, therefore, necessarily breaks down when either of these elements is removed. The Efficient Cause is so called precisely because it effects a change upon something. “Nothing” cannot be changed. “Nothing” has no properties to change. It is therefore just as incoherent to claim that an Efficient Cause created out of nothing as it is to say that the universe popped into existence out of nothing.

        II.) The Big Bang Theory really is just an explanation of the expansion of spacetime. Beyond the BBT, there’s Inflation Theory, which covers a more specific discussion of the mechanism by which the expansion occurs. Neither of these models has anything to say, in and of themselves, about whether the universe began to exist. Borde-Guth-Vilenkin only states that Classical models break down at a finite point in the past; it makes no claims about the eternality of Quantum systems, and therefore does not claim that our universe began to exist. Neither does Hawking-Hartle require the universe to begin existing. In fact, according to Hawking-Hartle, the universe existed timelessly at the apparent initial boundary of time. Several other cosmologists have proposed models by which the universe could exist without having begun to exist. The idea that the universe must have begun to exist is actually not one supported by science.

        III.) “The state before [time, space, and material all exist]” is incoherent. The word “before” is a temporal description– it is absolutely meaningless if time does not exist. It makes just as little sense for a personal entity to act in a state of timelessness as it does for a personal entity to move through a state of spacelessness. Any action, even the simple act of willing things to be different, is necessarily temporal. We have absolutely no experience with things which exist outside of our spacetime universe, personal or otherwise. I see no better reason to think that a personal entity can exist outside of spacetime than to think that an impersonal entity with otherwise similar properties could do so.

        Thanks, again!

      • ajfits7 says:

        OK, you’ve given me some things to study. I feel that I need to point out that I removed at least two temporal descriptors from my statement, and yet still ended up with one, which really annoys me. Regardless, rather than argue what look to be solid points, and thus display my ignorance at this deeper level, I am going to do two possibly inadvisable things:

        1) I am going to appeal to authority. I don’t really have a problem with an appeal to authority, because none of us is an expert in all fields (and it could be argued that I have a ways to go in ANY field), but I know that it is a bit of a cop-out when it comes to discussions such as this. However, I know my limitations, if nothing else. Although I have read the explanation at the link that follows, I don’t see a need to re-create it and possibly do a poor job of it. Apparently your objection is a common one, and there are at least three instances of it being addressed on the Reasonable Faith site alone: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/must-everything-that-begins-to-exist-have-a-material-cause.

        2) There is, of course, the possibility that you are correct, and I may come to the point that I have to concede your objections. At the risk of pushing the “Princess Bride” analogy too far, I will say that if I concede the point(s) and find my back against the wall, I have to let you know that I am not, in fact, left-handed. While I really like the KCA and the resulting deduction of a god, the argument for the existence of God is a cumulative one. Arguments can be made against the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the ontological argument, the moral argument, etc., but at some point the combined weight of the arguments – even accepting a myriad of objections – begins to overpower the refutations. So while one may say that the cosmological argument is not ironclad (though I still lean in that direction, pending further research in lieu of your objections), the existence of a god would still have the most explanatory power for the existence of the Universe. Though we can explain morality through social conditioning or herd mentality, a moral code built into our genetic code by an omnibenevolent Creator makes more sense. On and on they go, and we end up saying, “methinks he doth protest too much.” The KCA is but one of many arguments, and poking holes in them based on incomplete knowledge or confounding results is resorting to atheism because of the difficulty of comprehension or imagination, a “no god of the gaps,” so to speak.

        I do not say any of this to diminish your responses, because I find them useful and interesting. However, my apologetic bent is based not on justifying my own faith (this has been done repeatedly on a more personal experiential and pragmatic level), but rather offering reasons for the intellectual strength of the Christian faith. I hope to build that foundation even stronger as a result of this conversation, and for that I sincerely thank you.

      • Thanks again! It’s quite refreshing to be able to maintain a respectful and courteous discussion on this topic. I, too, am getting a lot out of this discussion, and I’m grateful to you for it.

        1.) I completely understand the frustration involved in discussing this sort of atemporality. It’s an incredibly difficult and counter-intuitive area of philosophy.

        I don’t consider a citation of Reasonable Faith to be an appeal to authority. It’s not fallacious to make reference to previous research and argumentation on a given topic. I’ll review Dr. Craig’s position on the matter in order to better address this.

        2.) I don’t think that multiple flawed arguments (if it turns out that they are, indeed, flawed) carry any more weight than a single flawed argument. Combining several arguments in order to come to a conclusion essentially makes each of them into a Premise for a larger syllogism. As with any syllogism, if even one premise is bad, the whole argument is problematic. Obviously, as an atheist, I disagree with the Moral Argument, as well; but perhaps that’s best left for another discussion.

        Thanks, again, for discussing things with me!

      • ajfits7 says:

        I would replace “flawed” with “objectionable,” in the sense that objections can be – and are – raised. Everything we know is limited by the scope of our knowledge and understanding, and we never “prove” anything, in the mathematical sense. We are forced to take the most plausible idea with the most explanatory power, and often there is little competition in this area.

        For example, the theory of evolution has areas of difficulty and counter-intuitive assertions, but there is really no plausible alternative in the absence of a god. The force of the argument is based not on the fact that it is unassailable, but in that it best fits the evidence, given our current understanding.

      • I didn’t mean “flawed” in a pejorative way. I simply meant that the premises of the arguments aren’t as generally accepted as one would like when formulating a syllogism.

        There are certainly some difficult aspects to biology, as there are with most subjects. But I absolutely understand searching for the best explanations for the available evidence. That’s why I enjoy these conversations!

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