Skeptics and atheists like to present their side as that of reason, and the religious side as that of faith. But it just isn’t so. It is, in fact, quite reasonable to believe that there is a God who is is spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused, and incredibly powerful.
One of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. One form of this argument goes like this:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This “Kalam” cosmological argument is summarized in a video from Reasonable Faith:
Being that the conclusion (#3) follows logically from the premises (#1 and #2), skeptics try to show that either of the two premises are invalid. In other words, they attempt to demonstrate that something can begin to exist without being caused to exist by something else, or that the universe did not begin to exist; that it has in some sense existed forever. But the evidence from the real world tells us that the premises are true statements.
Everything we know about the universe tells us that premise #1 is valid. Things do not pop into existence out of nothing; we call that magic, not science. I can already hear the skeptics snickering and saying, “that ignorant GeoChristian guy doesn’t even know about quantum theory, which allows particles to come into existence from nothing.” But I am right and the skeptics are wrong, because quantum particles do not materialize into existence from absolute nothingness Those particles emerge from a quantum vacuum, which is the lowest possible quantum energy state, but not nothing. In addition, the particles can only come into existence because there are laws that allow them to, and those laws are part of the cause. Skeptics cannot point to a single phenomenon in nature that would invalidate premise #1.
Everything we know about the universe tells us that premise #2 is valid. Many things point to the universe having come into existence at a distinct point of time in the finite past, such as the second law of thermodynamics, the finite size of the universe, and the expansion of the universe.
If the premises are valid, the conclusion is valid: something outside of the universe caused the universe to exist. That something, to a Christian or other theist, is God.
What is more likely:
1. A universe that was caused to exist by something material but eternal (or timeless) and non-thermodynamic (as in not having to obey the laws of thermodynamics),
2. A universe that was caused by something immaterial and outside of itself, that is a God who is uncaused, eternal (or timeless), and powerful?
Grace and Peace
12 thoughts on “It is more reasonable to believe that God exists than to believe that he does not”
If there is a God who is is spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and uncaused, it would be impossible for us to know it as we have agreeably been caused to materially exist in space and time. Such an unknowable god is completely powerless unless it can and does exist materially in space and time, in which case your argument for the conditions of the existence of said god no longer aplly, and your god dies with the weakness of your flawed and completely baseless premises.
What reaon do you offer for me to believe that a god would have any one or all of the attributes you arbitrarily assigned to it? Who are you to provide the attributes of god?
If the cause of the universe is itself caused, then we have just put the question back one step and solved nothing. Something must be uncaused; either the universe itself or something outside of the universe. Either God or the universe is just a brute fact. But everything we know about the universe tells us that it operates by cause and effect, so it is reasonable (I would say “most reasonable”) to believe that it isn’t the universe that is a brute fact. That leaves us with God as the uncaused cause.
If the cause of the universe is itself material and bound by space and time, then once again we have only put the question of causation back one step and have not solved the question of the cause of the universe. It is most reasonable to believe that the cause-and-effect universe was caused by something non-universe. Otherwise we end up with an eternal, material universe that is not bound by the second law, and there is zero evidence that this exists.
None of the attributes the kalam cosmological argument assigns to God is “arbitrary” as you claim, but flow out of the argument itself. You have not refuted either of the premises with anything other than an arm wave.
Whatever caused the universe to exist must be extraordinarily powerful; capable of bringing all of the matter and energy of hundreds of billions of galaxies into existence.
You claim that God is “completely powerless unless it can and does exist materially in space and time.” You have stumbled upon a half-truth. You are incorrect in that the cause of the universe does not have to exist materially in space and time; it can be completely separate from its creation. But here’s the truth in your statement: according to Christianity, God has entered the space-time cosmos in the person of Jesus Christ. God is both beyond the universe and just as much in the universe as you and I.
I fail to see why it is more reasonable to think that god exists. If everything that exists has a cause, then god either has a cause, or he doesn’t exist. If you believe in an uncaused god, then logically, an uncaused universe, or and uncaused cause of the universe is also possible, and is no less probable. Deciding that whatever caused the universe had to be intelligent is an unreasonable jump.
I don’t know what caused the universe, or even if it had a cause, but I don’t think that there are necessarily only two options. This isn’t an either/or situation because we just don’t know enough about it to determine that there are only two ways it could have happened. No one has ever observed a universe beginning, so we have no idea what happens. If everyone were to believe that god was the answer to everything they didn’t know, we wouldn’t have cars, phones, tall buildings, medicine, etc. Absence of knowledge is not an excuse for making unsubstantiated claims that are essentially unprovable.
Your argument is weak. You claim that your premises are correct, say that people who don’t agree are wrong, and then ignore your premises. I might have agreed with the statement that either something material or something immaterial had to cause the universe (if it had a cause), but then you arbitrarily tacked on intelligence to one of those options, because that’s what you want the answer to be. You’ve tried to jump the argument ahead to whether or not the immaterial cause is intelligent or unintelligent, when you still haven’t established that having an immaterial cause is more reasonable than a material one.
LJ — The kalam cosmological argument does not state “everything that exists has a cause,” but “everything that begins to exist has a cause.” There is a huge difference. Either God exists without a cause, or the universe exists without a cause. Nothing in the universe itself implies that the law of cause and effect breaks down when it comes to entire universes, so it is perfectly reasonable to state that the cause of the universe is not physical.
We are not talking about the origin of cars, phones, and such, but the origin of the entire universe. Neither you nor I expect cars to pop into existence, because we know that is how the universe operates. Most Christian philosophers do not advocate “God did it so we do not need any further explanation,” whether the topic is science, technology, or cosmology.
You said, “Absence of knowledge is not an excuse for making unsubstantiated claims that are essentially unprovable.” The cosmological argument is not an argument from ignorance, but one from knowledge. We know that everything that begins to exist has a cause. We also know that the universe began to exist. Therefore it is quite reasonable to conclude that the universe had a cause that is something completely outside of the universe.
I did not mention “intelligence:” that is something you tacked on to my argument. But as a Christian I certainly believe the cause of the universe is intelligent. Whether “intelligence” flows out of the kalam cosmological argument is something I will have to give more thought and study to.
You appear to have some bad information regarding Cosmology. Our best measurements to date are consistent with a flat infinite universe.
The Kalam cosmological argument is taken apart in great detail here: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Kalam.
Statistique — The cosmological argument is not dependent on the shape or extent of the universe. It is dependent on the universe having a beginning, a concept that is consistent with modern cosmology.
I did mention the finite size of the universe in my post, and that was mistake on my part. It is not part of the cosmological argument. I recognize that a finite universe is consistent with some cosmological models and not with others. But again, the cosmological argument does not depend on the universe being finite in spatial extent. Even if the universe were infinite in extent, the fact that we can only see that part of the universe that is within 13 or 14 billion light years of us tells us that the universe had a beginning.
I looked through the ironchariots article. It failed to address one of the primary issues, which is the definition of “nothing.” When people try to refute the cosmological argument by referring to quantum fluctuations, they do not seem to understand what is meant by “nothing.” When an electron-positron pair is produced spontaneously, it is not produced out of nothing: there is the quantum vacuum (which is not “nothing”), as well as the laws of the universe that allow such things to happen.
If you use the 2nd law of thermodynamics to help show premise #2 is valid you have to know the extent of the universe. The boundary conditions of the system are crucial for applying the 2nd law. This is why YECs always fail when attempting to use the 2nd law it to disprove evolution. They draw the system boundary around the earth and fail to include the Sun, comets, asteroids, dust, and to a lesser extent cosmic radiation that delivers energy and mass to the Earth.
We can actually observe a bubble of about 46-47 billion light years away from us (the edge of the observable universe) because of the expansion of space. This is the lower bound on the size of the universe. The observed expansion of the universe and not local observability is the crucial part of the argument that let’s us extrapolate back to a beginning.
Nothing is a whole can of worms that you might want to explore a little more. This is a great starting point from Lawrence Krauss: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UemhCsaeGgc. Cosmologists have hypothesized that not only does quantum mechanics and relativity show that particles can pop into and out of existence as fluctuations in a quantum vacuum, but space, time, universes, and even physical laws are subject to pop in and out of existence from of “nothing”. The goal posts of physical nothing have now been pushed as far back to philosophical nothing as possible as our current understanding allows and it’s clear that a cause is not required.
It’s given that this is all highly speculative and at the edge of our understanding and open for debate and verification, but it is very interesting.
In summary, to prove a logical argument wrong one only has to provide one counterexample or point out one flaw in in the argument. Those counter examples and logical flaws noted in the link by themselves are each enough to disprove Kalam and taken as a whole they really point out the hopelessness of using this type of simple argument to address such an important claim. I apologize in citing another blog to refute a post here, but I assumed it was fair game since you posted video summary yourself. Thanks for listening!
True Scripture, is more relevant to the 21st Century, Not that watered down goat herder tripe from back in the day :)
CURES 1:1–Free Thought is Not a curse, it’s the cure :)
Inept 10:10–Religion is Thought Abortion :)
Thoughts 7:32–“Thinking”, if everyone did it, who would be religious? :)
STUDS 10:22–Dont just teach your children to read, teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything–George Carlin :)
Soldiers 7:42–The way to deal with superstition is NOT to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous–H.L Mencken :)
Stinkmeister 5:55–If ignorance was body odor, religious beliefs would make you stink like you slept in a dumpster of fish and vomit :)
DUH 9:23–You dont need religion to have morals. If you dont know right from wrong, you lack empathy, Not religion :)
Wizards 7:2–Even though the idea that there is a magic man who can solve all your problems for you is a nice thought, once you see behind the curtain, you realize you have to solve all your problems yourself :)
DevientGenie — Very profound. You are obviously so far ahead of me that I don’t even know how to respond to such intellectual brilliance.
I just watched Krauss’s video, and he simply does not get it. He starts out with a “Biblical” view of “nothing,” and then says that this nothing is not really nothing, but something. So he simply redefines the kind of “nothing” that doesn’t work for him into a nothing that isn’t nothing, but rather a quantum stew. This nothing isn’t nothing, so he doesn’t solve the “why is there something rather than nothing?” problem. Where did this bubbling quantum vaccuum come from? Krauss does not really know, but he has faith that physics will find the answer.
He then moves on to the infinite universe speculation, with each universe having its own laws. Even if there were an infinite (or very large), number of universes, the atheist’s dilemma would not be solved. The quantum background or multiverse or something spawns baby universes. Does this go back ad infinitum? At what point is there no longer need for causation? I see no reason to cave in to such speculation posing as science or reason.
I’m not sure about your parallel between the Earth-Sun system and the observable universe-infinite universe system. First, you don’t know that the universe is infinite (and you admit that this is highly speculative). Second, while the Sun obviously has tremendous energy input into the Earth, there is no evidence that the universe beyond what we can observe has any meaningful energy input into the observable universe within a timescale on the order of the history of the universe. Third, bringing entropy into discussions of the cosmological argument has to do with time—the universe is only several billions of years old, not googles of years old or infinite in age—rather than space.
While it is true that a single counterpoint can be fatal to an argument, that is not demonstrated by by the link you provided regarding the kalam cosmological argument. For example, while William Lane Craig uses arguments about the impossibility of an actual infinite number of events in the history of the universe, the truthfulness of the premise that “the universe began to exist” does not depend on the correctness of Craig’s discussion. If one demonstrates that Craig is wrong about actual infinites, that does not mean that premise 2 is invalid. I can follow Craig’s reasoning, but I am in no position to be the judge as to whether his reasoning is sound. Some philosophers say it is sound, others say it is not. I suspect that all of us—you, me, world-class philosophers and cosmologists—make our decisions on such matters based on something other than reason.
I appreciate your tone and clarity. Thanks.
Thank you, I aim for a good discussion.
I have a suspicion that the bible says about as much as cosmological nothing as it does about evolution. If that is wrong please correct me. I think this is one of the main problems with Kalam, especially the nebulousness of the word ‘began’. I think that word is intentionally used to make the argument harder to attack (initially), but it really just opens it up for criticism and eventual rebuttal. “In the beginning God created…” is fairly general and open to much interpretation.
As to the infinite regression/cause question. Why does God not have to have a cause, but it’s not ok for the universe to have always existed(special pleading)? There are many theories of cosmology that haven’t been ruled out by experiments that allow for the universe to have existed for infinitely long in the past. Here is an interesting new one from Nature for example: http://www.nature.com/news/did-a-hyper-black-hole-spawn-the-universe-1.13743. So an answer to your question: “Does this go back ad infinitum?”, would be: ‘it’s possible, but we really don’t know yet’.
As to the entropy discussion, you cannot separate time and space. Our best explanations rely on treating the fabric of the universe as space-time and it does not make sense to talk about one without including the other. They appear to be intrinsically interwoven and both depend ultimately on the size of the container (boundary conditions). There are other theories out there, but this is the best we have for now. Along those same lines it’s proposed that our universe started out in a collision with another universe. Some researchers have claimed to see evidence of this collision in the cosmic background microwave radiation (highly speculative, but a possibility). This would be a great example of energy input from another universe. My main point is that using entropy to justify claim #2 is fraught with pitfalls and not a very good argument.
Now for the common gambit, let me concede all of the above and suppose Kalam to be true and thus the universe has a cause for discussion’s sake.
How does one get from “a cause” to “the Judeo-Christian God created the Universe?”
In light of all of this and all of the criticisms of the cosmological argument since the time of Aristotle, it seems hard to believe that the Kalam is “One of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God”. Maybe a intellectually interesting thought provoking, and discussion generating argument, but as far as convincing goes it seems the more Kalam is refined in response to criticism, the weaker it gets in pointing to God as the creator.
The Bible doesn’t say much about biological evolution (see my What the Bible says directly about biological evolution). Genesis 1 comes pretty close to saying that God created from nothing (creation ex nihilo) in saying “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What else is there than “the heavens and the earth?” The concept is spelled out more clearly in Hebrews 11:3, which states
In regards to infinite regression, either God exists without a cause, or the universe exists without a cause. Your “Did a hyper-black hole spawn the Universe?” link does absolutely nothing for your case; it merely puts the question back one step. If a hyper-black hole spawned the present observable universe, that singularity existed in the wider multiverse or in some other universe, which itself is in need of an explanation. Why does that multiverse or other universe exist at all?
It is not special pleading to favor an uncaused God over an uncaused multiverse. As I have already stated, everything we know about the cosmos involves cause, even if that cause is a quantum background (which is not “nothing”). It is more reasonable to assert that God is an uncaused being, than to believe that the universe/multiverse is an uncaused entity, or that there has been an infinite regression of events.
I’ll stick by what I said about the entropy of the universe. Energy input from some part of the universe more than 13.5 billion years away doesn’t do you any good if it hasn’t had time to get to this part of the universe. And you can talk about colliding universes creating new universes, but those original universes would have had entropy issues as well, and therefore they have not existed forever. So you are back to an infinite regress.
The cosmological argument demonstrates a cause, but it does not in itself demonstrate that “the Judeo-Christian God created the universe.” It is part of a rich, multi-faceted case for the truthfulness of Christianity. Trying to use the cosmological argument to demonstrate the goodness of God, for example, would be a rather futile effort. I would turn to the moral argument for the existence of God for that.