Are Creationists Stupid?

It is quite common in Internet circles to attack the intelligence and even sometimes the integrity of anyone believing in creation. An unfortunate strategy among some leading atheists is to group all opposition to solely naturalistic origins theories into one category, perhaps the one they think can most easily be refuted – young earth creationism. They like to ignore that God can also use processes and that many scholars (both now and in the early church) don’t think that the Bible teaches the age of the universe. Clearly some creationist claims are mistaken[1] but is it ridiculous to hold to any belief in creation at all?

In evaluating this question, first consider how creation is defined according to the Oxford dictionary: “The action or process of bringing something into existence.[2]”

By this definition, everyone should agree that the following were created:

  • Our universe
  • Life
  • All species
  • Consciousness

Even atheists agree that none of these are eternally existent. Atheism entails though that there has been no intervention by a supernatural Creator in the origin of these entities and that is the notion of creation to which they object.

Let’s consider the most foundational type of creation that atheists must deny – the creation of the universe. The second definition in the Oxford dictionary actually highlights this particular aspect by defining creation as “the bringing into existence of the universe, especially when regarded as an act of God.” However, it is a well-established scientific fact that our universe has a finite age and most scientists agree that its early history is characterized by an expansion out of an incredibly dense and tiny state in what is now known as the Big Bang. So our universe was created! But does that necessarily mean there was a Creator?

Nobel prize winners who have contributed to the confirmation of the Big Bang have noted how it appears quite similar to a creation event:

“The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five Books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.“ Arno Penzias

“There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the Big Bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.[3]” George Smoot

Edwin Hubble’s successor, long-time atheist Allan Sandage, became a Christian late in life and notes that “it was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science… It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.[4]” Sandage also notes that “Astronomical observations have also suggested that this creation event, signaled by the expansion of the Universe, has happened only once. The expansion will continue forever, the Universe will not collapse upon itself, and therefore this type of creation will not happen again.[5]”

Quantum physicist Christopher Isham notes that “perhaps the best argument … that the Big Bang supports theism is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists. At times this has led to scientific ideas, such as continuous creation [steady state] or an oscillating Universe, being advanced with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to support his/her theory.[6]“

So maybe it’s not so ignorant to see the Big Bang as a creation event and as evidence (not proof) for a supernatural Creator. But could there have been a natural cause to the Big Bang? I’ve blogged previously about how the overall universe had to have a beginning. I’ve quoted Alexander Vilenkin, a prominent cosmologist: “With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” In this same blog I also discussed and referenced the New Scientist article entitled: Why physicists can’t avoid a creation event?

There are some loud voices trying to silence these frank admissions – most notably by atheist Lawrence Krauss. Even Krauss speaks about creation but just claims it is out of nothing, which when pressed he admits by nothing he means the quantum vacuum. I posted several short video clips from an interview I conducted with OU physicist Mike Strauss asking for his response to Krauss’s claim that our universe could have originated from nothing. Strauss is also skeptical that the universe can be created from the quantum vacuum. I also asked him whether Vilenkin’s BGV theorem even left open the possibility that the quantum vacuum has eternally existed and again he was skeptical.

Strauss is but one many of Krauss’s critics. Consider this scathing NY Times critique by physicist/philosopher David Albert of Colombia: “And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.[7]”

As Frank Turek likes to ask – “Which is more reasonable that nothing created the universe or that Someone created the universe?”

There is also the matter of “dummies” like Leibniz (who was one of the inventors of calculus) arguing philosophically for the need for God even if the universe was eternal as I’ve blogged about recently. None of this argumentation relies on anything that is even remotely called into question by modern science so one cannot just dismiss this argument by assuming that Leibniz just lacked knowledge of future scientific discoveries. My blog also cites recent developments by Rob Koons and Alex Pruss and others that further these types of arguments by offering compelling support for the key premise of Leibniz’s argument.

Thus, creation shouldn’t be considered a dirty word used only by those who are intellectually inferior. We have logical reasons to believe that the universe needs a Creator; we find scientific evidence that looks remarkably like a creation event, and attempts to attribute the creation of this universe to solely naturalistic causes are scientifically implausible. We’ve also discovered that a remarkable orderliness in the original Big Bang state was necessary for the existence of any form of life. Thus, we have many independent lines of evidences that combine to form a strong cumulative case for creation, and even for a Creator!

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[1] Since there are many different, conflicting views of creation they cannot all be correct. The same could be said for various scientific theories as well.

[2]http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/creation

[3] George Smoot, Wrinkles in Time (1993)

[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/newsweek/science_of_god/scienceofgod.htm

[5] http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth15.html

[6] Isham, C. 1988. “Creation of the Universe as a Quantum Process,” in Physics, Philosophy, and Theology, A Common Quest for Understanding, eds. R. J. Russell, W. R. Stoeger, and G. V. Coyne, Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory, p. 378.

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?mabReward=relbias:w&adxnnl=1&module=Search&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1418576495-uhuZjnkGzY+luBnAcl0rPQ

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37 replies
  1. John Moore says:

    You’re just shuffling words around, right? You try to convince us that creation does not require a creator, and then of course you imply that it does indeed. It’s not a rational argument when you just shuffle words around.

    Atheists will admit that creation requires a creator. Why don’t we stick to this language that everyone’s used to? Creationists say the world was created, and atheists say the world began. That’s pretty clear.

    Reply
    • Allen Hainline says:

      Thanks for your comments John. One point I was trying to make was simply that by the most common definition of creation, people of all worldviews believe in things like the creation of the universe and life. More importantly though my main point was that we in fact do have good evidence for the origin of the universe/multiverse. An origin to the totality of space, time, matter and energy doesn’t fit well with atheism but provides evidence for a Creator. Do you believe the universe had a beginning? If it did, what do you think is the best explanation for such a creation?

      Reply
      • John Moore says:

        The Big Bang is now a widely accepted scientific theory, and few people believe the world has always existed. So yes, I think the universe had a beginning.

        On the other hand, I think the Big Bang gives us no reason to believe in a Creator.

        I think there is no explanation for the Big Bang. I think it’s impossible for us ever to have an explanation. The very concept of an explanation of the Big Bang is incoherent and self-contradictory.

        Here’s one way the argument could go:

        a) An explanation must be separate from the thing it explains.

        b) The Big Bang universe encompasses everything that exists (let’s suppose).

        c) Therefore, nothing can exist apart from the Big Bang universe, which means there can’t be an explanation for the universe as a whole.

        You’ll probably say that God exists apart from the Big Bang universe, and that’s fine, except now there’s no explanation for God. What do you think is the best explanation for God?

        You’ll probably say God needs no explanation, or else you say something like God explains himself, which I consider illogical. Let’s say God needs no explanation, but in that case why not just say the Big Bang universe needs no explanation?

        You’ll probably say the universe had a beginning and is contingent and has moving parts and undergoes change, etc. which means it’s not eternal and necessary like God. But I’ll say the universe at the very moment of the Big Bang was zero-dimensional and therefore just like God – eternal, simple, unchanging etc.

        How is God different from the Big Bang?

        Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “One point I was trying to make was simply that by the most common definition of creation, people of all worldviews believe in things like the creation of the universe and life.”

        But when people talk about ‘Creationists’ and ‘YECs’ in particular, they are referring specifically to a belief that rejects multiple strands of science pointing to both evolution and an old earth. It’s equivocation to mix that up with attributing the creation of the universe to a God, a much more general claim.

        I have no problem with people believing the latter – it’s just not a belief I happen to hold – whereas YEC beliefs strike me as irrational.

        NB: a) I still don’t call YECs stupid. b) I’m frequently called ‘stupid’ by Christians for not believing God created the universe, often with swear words added too!

        Reply
        • Allen Hainline says:

          Thanks for your thoughts on this post Andy, I’m trying to avoid equivocation by drawing distinctions between different definitions of the word creation. A point I was trying to make was that there is too much baggage associated with the term “creation” or creationist. The latter is frequently used pejoratively and my problem is with those who would lump all creationists together without engaging in the best arguments from the other side.

          I have merely argued that the belief that God created the universe is rational. However, I do also think it is an over-statement to say that skepticism about all-encompassing claims of Darwinian evolution is anti-science. (not that you were necessarily going quite that far) As Frank likes to say “science doesn’t say anything scientists do.” I don’t know of anyone who questions evolution if it is defined as change over time – however, if defined as a solely unguided process responsible for the full diversity of life forms then I think we’re dealing in a realm beyond what has been scientifically demonstrated. I’m fine with people pointing out how this type of view differs from that of many scientists etc. so long as they don’t just say that all creationists are stupid and evil etc. After all, it is quite healthy to encourage disagreement with whatever scientific theories are accepted at any given time – if no one ever questioned prevailing viewpoints we couldn’t make progress in science.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Sure, calling people evil and stupid isn’t helpful – I’ve been called evil and stupid this week for accepting the evidence for evolution!

            You argue that accepted science should be challenged, but I see no cases being made for challenging equivalent theories in science – germ theory of disease, that the earth goes round the sun or that intercourse causes pregnancy. Such challenges only become welcomed when they are seen to support fundamentalist religious views.

            Finally, ‘creationist’ is generally taken to mean denying at the very least that speciation can occur. This is certainly counter to the evidence. I don’t see how it’s helpful to tie the term to more general theistic beliefs regarding the origin of the universe.

            Thanks for taking the time to reply, Allen.

          • Allen Hainline says:

            Physicists encourage the challenge of even as well-established a theory as General Relativity by considering Modified Newtonian Dynamics and other speculative theories. On the other hand, those who point out shortcomings of proposed Darwinian mechanisms to explain protein evolution or the Cambrian explosion are met with a derision and dismissive attitude inconsistent with challenges in other areas of science. I agree the prominent philosopher of science Thomas Nagel (an atheist):

            “I believe the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude for challenging a scientific world view that owes some of the passion displayed by its adherents precisely to the fact that it is thought to liberate us from religion. That worldview is ripe for displacement….”
            “the problems that these [ID advocates] pose … should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair.” Nagel in his book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly Wrong

          • Andrew Ryan says:

            “Physicists encourage the challenge of even as well-established a theory as General Relativity by considering Modified Newtonian Dynamics and other speculative theories.”

            The equivalent here would be challenging General Relativity by proposing angels are influencing the movements of bodies.

            The physics equivalent of Young Earth Creationism would be proposing that the moon is only a few hundred yards from the earth.

            No-one is encouraging THAT as a theory, and I suggest that if they did would receive the same derision as those insisting the earth is only a few thousand years old.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “Physicists encourage the challenge of even as well-established a theory as General Relativity by considering Modified Newtonian Dynamics and other speculative theories.”

            The equivalent here would be challenging General Relativity by proposing angels are influencing the movements of bodies.

            The physics equivalent of Young Earth Creationism would be proposing that the moon is only a few hundred yards from the earth.

            No-one is encouraging THAT as a theory, and I suggest that if they did they would receive the same derision as those insisting the earth is only a few thousand years old.

            With regards to the quote from the atheist, I could equally quote many Christians who see creationism as damaging to both science and Christianity.

          • Allen Hainline says:

            Thanks for your comments Andrew. When you say: “The equivalent here would be challenging General Relativity by proposing angels are influencing the movements of bodies” you’re misrepresenting the nature of the arguments for the creation of the universe and its laws since advocates are dealing with initial creation and setup. Maybe that isn’t what you were referring to but if so you’re providing another example of underestimating the force of the evidence for an origin of the universe from nothing physical and the fine-tuning of the laws, constants and initial conditions to support life of any kind anywhere in the universe.

            I’m trying to argue against conflating all types of creationist claims. I find the evidence for a 13.8 billion year old universe quite persuasive and claims that the Bible is teaching otherwise as quite unpersusive (as have many even ancient scholars and rabbis).

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “Maybe that isn’t what you were referring to”

            I’m afraid it isn’t. I was saying that YEC dismissing speciation and claiming the earth is thousands of years old is equivalent to saying the moon is a few hundred years from the earth. I was saying that ‘considering Modified Newtonian Dynamics and other speculative theories’ is not equivalent to what creationists (and arguably even ID proponents) suggest, and that a closer equivalent would be saying that if we can’t explain every aspect of a planet’s trajectory then we must shrug and say angels were responsible.

            In fact, I think Newton did in fact make such claims with respect to the movements of certain astrological bodies – it was Einstein who later provided a non-supernatural explanation.

            “I’m trying to argue against conflating all types of creationist claims.”

            OK, I’m with you on that one, Allen!

      • Maezeppa says:

        You write, ” They like to ignore that God can also use processes and that many scholars (both now and in the early church) don’t think that the Bible teaches the age of the universe. Clearly some creationist claims are mistaken[1] but is it ridiculous to hold to any belief in creation at all?”

        Assumes facts not in evidence. Your whole thesis is intellectually dishonest. And the generalizations about ‘atheists think’ are just silly. In any case, all the evidence shows the universe and all in it exists via natural causes and is about what we’d expect to see if it were not planned by a purposeful designer.

        Reply
  2. Allen Hainline says:

    > “I think the Big Bang gives us no reason to believe in a Creator.”

    I want to defend the broader claim that a beginning to the entire Universe (defined as the totality of time, space, matter and energy) does plausibly demonstrate a need for a transcendent cause that by deduction would have to be immaterial and outside of the Universe. The cause of all of nature would have to be supernatural. I make this case in detail here: http://crossexamined.org/origin-universe/. Since as Strauss made clear BGV implies there wouldn’t even be space and time eternal to the past, something supernatural is the best explanation of the origin of the universe. This looks as much like a creation event as anything could since the naturalist cannot even appeal to things like spacetime or the quantum vacuum to help bring about the universe.
    Why say that something contingent like the Big Bang has “no explanation?” I agree with Koons and other philosophers that it’s reasonable for all contingent truths to have explanations/causes. It doesn’t seem reasonable to expect that all necessary truths require explanations though – e.g. there is no cause for the law of non-contradiction. One cannot explain how it came to be true – it’s eternally and necessarily true. If you haven’t seen the video by Koon in this blog it may help in this area:
    http://crossexamined.org/new-proofs-gods-existence/
    God, if He exists, is by definition an uncreated, eternal being and thus would be a necessary being not requiring an explanation for His existence.

    > “The very concept of an explanation of the Big Bang is incoherent and self-contradictory.”

    Many cosmologists reject this since they are busy looking for explanations for the Big Bang – they are looking for a physical cause. BGV though argues that there still has to be an overall origin to the universe which would still need a cause.

    Even if we rework your argument to apply to the overall Universe, it begs the question against theism – premise b assumes that God doesn’t exist. I agree that if God doesn’t exist there could be no transcendent cause of the Universe. It seems very ad hoc to look for explanations of everything that comes into existence but then once it appears that the entire Universe came into existence from nothing physical to simply say there is no need for an explanation. Whatever caused the universe to come into existence must simply have been outside the universe (super-natural).

    Reply
  3. John Moore says:

    Why do you think the Big Bang was contingent? I mean the zero-dimensional thing at the very moment of the Big Bang. I agree that contingent things have explanations, but maybe the Big Bang wasn’t contingent.

    Reply
    • Allen Hainline says:

      I would be careful about claiming anything in particular about the 1st fraction of a second of the history of our universe. Currently understood physics cannot be reliably extrapolated beyond this point because the energy levels exceed what can be achieved at the LHC or in any other environment physicists can evaluate.

      I think most philosophers would readily agree that the Big Bang was contingent – it could have been different. The earliest state of the universe for which we have knowledge could have had different attributes in terms of total energy, particle composition, temperature, etc. Contrast this with the value of pi (a necessary truth). Pi takes on a particular value in all possible universes. It’s impossible for it to have been different.

      In fact one of the remarkable aspects of the Big Bang that I alluded to briefly is its highly ordered early state. It’s deemed unlikely among possibilities – which implies that there are other possibilities. Check out Oxford physicist Roger Penrose’s discussion of this here:

      http://www.ws5.com/Penrose/

      Penrose computes that life-permitting universes would be about 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123 – it looks incredibly rigged (which adds support to the notion of it as being produced by a Creator).

      Reply
      • Martyn Cornell says:

        “Penrose computes that life-permitting universes would be about 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123 – it looks incredibly rigged ”

        Not if we are just one among 1 in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123 universes. Given the odds, I’d say it was much more likely there are that many universes and we live in the lucky one because we couldn’t live anywhere else. So – still no need for god.

        Reply
        • Allen Hainline says:

          It does seem like there is a way to avoid the supernatural implication if you have enough universes being created – unfortunately we have no empirical evidence for any universe other than our own. However, even if we grant that a multitude of other universes might exist, there is also more to the story. Penrose himself argues that multiverse theories do not explain this incredibly special initial state – “These world ensemble hypotheses are worse than useless in explaining the anthropic fine-tuning of the universe.” The reasons he gives are that multiverse theories make predictions about what life-permitting universes would be like that are vastly, vastly different than our universe. Theories for creating universes are such that it’s exponentially more likely to make tiny universes than large ones and it’s hyper-exponentially easier to fine-tune a smaller universe to avoid life-prohibiting black hole catastrophes than it would be to fine-tune a universe like ours that has 10^22 more stars than is necessary for life. Virtually all life-permitting universes formed by natural processes would consist of at most a single solar system or perhaps even just a Boltzmann Brain (a brain randomly fluctuating into existence with false memories).

          These facts look highly improbable on naturalism but fit quite nicely on theism – God not only rigged the universe to be life-permitting in setting up the initial conditions but also make naturalism look improbable.

          For a detailed discussion see Penrose’s The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, pp. 762–65.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “unfortunately we have no empirical evidence for any universe other than our own”

            Unfortunately, no empirical evidence for God, either, Allen

            “God not only rigged the universe to be life-permitting in setting up the initial conditions but also make naturalism look improbable.”

            If you’re saying he was deliberately trying to leave evidence for himself, why not just have a large message appear in the sky?

            And why did he make all the animals look so evolved and appear to share common ancestors if they were all created as they currently are?

            Rather than attempt to leave evidence of himself for us, it looks more like he was doing his best to make it look like it all happened without him!

  4. John Moore says:

    You’re right that current physics can’t tell us about the first moment of the Big Bang. It can’t tell us about God either.

    Suppose the Big Bang began with a zero-dimensional point. Since it’s zero-dimensional, it has no internal parts. It has no space or time. It has no particles or temperature. How could it ever have been different? It doesn’t seem contingent.

    I think this zero-dimensional point at the start of the Big Bang seems the same as God, in the context of the cosmological argument.

    Reply
    • Allen Hainline says:

      You acknowledge that physics can’t tell us about the “first moment of the Big Bang” but then proceed to make some assumptions about the initial state. Once there is a universe at all then there are properties such as temperature, and types of particles etc. Only (causally) prior to the Big Bang would these properties have no meaning. I agree with you in that regard. When you say “how could it ever have been different” I think that is an accurate statement not about our universe but about nothing – about “not anything.” Nothing has no properties and no potentiality and thus could not have been different.

      Physics seems to be telling us that working backwards in time we reach a stopping place where there is nothing physical. Since such a state where there is nothing physical would not have the potentiality to create a physical universe, this transition corresponds to a creation from nothing physical. The broader metaphysical concept that “out of nothing, nothing comes” leads me to believe that there was a transcendent non-physical cause to the universe. It must not have been the case that there was nothing at all – merely that there was nothing physical. That still leaves room for God and I think demands some type of transcendent cause.

      I think you’re right when you say that physics cannot tell us about God if you mean that God as an immaterial being is inaccessible to scientific study. On the other hand, I am arguing of course that we can indirectly deduce some evidence for God and creation.

      Reply
      • John Moore says:

        The zero-dimensional point is not nothing. Think in terms of geometry – a point is zero-dimensional, yet it still exists. Maybe the stopping point that physics is working back to is actually a 1 instead of a 0.

        That way the universe doesn’t come from nothing, but it comes from that original zero-dimensional point.

        Reply
        • Allen Hainline says:

          I was primarily challenging the assumption of any details of the early universe – especially anything prior to the Planck Time.

          When you started claiming no particles or space or time, that was what I was interpreting (or apparently perhaps misinterpreting) as “nothing.” What are you proposing exactly – it sounded like an eternally existing point in spacetime that suddenly evolves into a high-energy, low entropy universe? Please clarify your proposal.

          Reply
          • John Moore says:

            I’m proposing something that sounds a lot like God. It’s an eternally existing thing (not in spacetime, though) that suddenly creates our universe.

            Unfortunately I can’t provide much more detail or clarification than that, but this very lack of clarity is also true of the God concept. So the similarity persists.

            This is God. It’s a zero-dimensional point of existence when nothing else exists at all. Maybe it’s pure energy. It has no length or width, and no time dimension either. But our spacetime universe arises from it somehow. Isn’t this what the cosmological argument is saying?

            I think Christians could accept this concept of God as the original uncaused cause. The only trouble would be to explain how such a God could be alive, and have plans, and love his creation. But there are other arguments for that, I’m sure.

          • Terry L says:

            John, you question whether this point might be “pure energy”? Do you mean energy as we know it, or something unknown to our universe?

            If it is the type of energy we know in our own universe, then we’re sneaking matter back in through the back door, as matter can be converted to energy, and energy to matter. But what if it’s a type of energy completely foreign to our universe?

            Consider a video game “universe” such as SimCity. In this game, you must power your city with electricity… but you and I know there’s not really electricity there… its a simulation inside the game. If you have no in-game sources of electricity, then your cities won’t grow, but if you have no real-world source of electricity, your game universe ceases to exist!

            The “citizens” of that game universe would know nothing… indeed, could NOT know anything at all about real-world electricity, even if they had human intelligence, unless the creator of the game revealed the true nature of their universe to them. However, the designer of that game literally has an infinite supply of in-game energy available to him, simply by tweaking the parameters of the game while it is running. As a computer programmer, I make such tweaks to my own programs quite frequently.

            Might our universe be analogous? I’m not suggesting that we’re living in the Matrix, this world is real. But, the Bible speaks of God sustaining the universe in existence, just as electricity sustains the game universe. We have no reason to believe the energy God uses to create or sustain the universe is energy as we know it, just as real-world electricity is not in-game electricity. The “energy” that we know is provided for our use; God has no need of it. He created our energy from his own power and infused it into our universe at the big bang.

            Does this seem reasonable to you? If not, what flaw do you see in my logic?

  5. Allen Hainline says:

    John, maybe our perspectives aren’t too far off. So I think good physics evidence and philosophical arguments exist that the Universe (including the multiverse if such a thing exists) had a beginning and thus that nothing physical is eternal. So the first physical event cannot itself have had a physical cause – there must be a transcendent cause that it non-physical. This doesn’t get us all of the attributes of God but I think it goes a long way to showing that naturalism is false and that supernaturalism is thus tree – there is at least some entity responsible for bringing about all of nature in a “first cause” that is therefore super-natural. Maybe you’re shying away from the description of this as being supernatural – I’m not sure.

    I think other evidence and arguments can establish that God is good and loving. At a minimum this seems plausible in light of the fine-tuning that I’ve blogged about extensively – we have evidence that a being wanted to bring about intelligent creatures with a sense of morality and free will.

    Reply
  6. Terry L says:

    John has reasoned this out quite well… but I think it can be carried a bit farther.

    The only difference I see between John’s “something that sounds a lot like God” and the God Christians see reflected in the cosmological argument is intelligence and personality.

    It seems to me that John’s “point” is lacking something; namely, an impetus. It cannot exist alone unless it is intelligent. I see explaining how it could have NO plans to be much more difficult than explaining that it must have plans!

    If such a zero-dimensional point did exist eternally (but as John pointed out, not in our spacetime), what was the trigger for the big bang? Why did this point suddenly erupt into our universe?

    Assuming that causality still applies (and without evidence to the contrary, I think we do well to assume that it does), either it was acted upon by something external to it which triggered the big bang, or it moved itself… it decided to create our universe. Occam argues against multiplying causes unnecessarily, so simply based on that, it would seem that this second object… this trigger… is unlikely to exist.

    An object that to create, must have intelligence. This theory is also supported by the incredible balance of forces in the big bang to provide a universe capable of supporting life.This in itself would argue for a tremendous intelligence!

    So we have a single ‘point’ that exists alone in zero dimensions (spaceless) existing causally prior to time (timeless) with no length or width (immaterial) that is so vastly (intelligent) that it can design our entire universe, and powerful enough to do so (omnipotent… as the creator of our universe, this point can likely manipulate any facet of our universe at will which to us is omnipotence).

    Spaceless, timeless, immaterial, intelligent, omnipotent… sounds like God to me!

    Reply
  7. Terry L says:

    I see explaining how it could have NO plans to be much more difficult than explaining that it must have plans!

    Could I have made that sentence any harder to read??

    Replace with:

    Explaining how this point could not “be alive and have plans” is much more difficult than explaining that it must have plans!

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I really shouldn’t write in a hurry!

      Replace “An object that to create, must have intelligence.” with “An object that decides to create….

      Reply
  8. Toby says:

    “God, if He exists, is by definition an uncreated, eternal being and thus would be a necessary being not requiring an explanation for His existence.”

    Who’s definition and how did it originate? Lots of things that have no existence beyond definitions. We can define anything and it exists only as a concept. Lime green elephants, flying spaghetti creatures, circles, etc. Gods are defined into existence by believers. A clear evidence of this is Anselm’s ontological argument where we see a believer, who believes by faith not reason, perform definitional acrobatics to produce “evidence” for a god.

    “Contrast this with the value of pi (a necessary truth). Pi takes on a particular value in all possible universes. It’s impossible for it to have been different.”

    The value of pi is necessary because of the concept of the circle. If we designed circles in a different shape then pi wouldn’t be useful. There is no such thing as a perfect circle except in definition. It has no reality. I guess you could say circles are digital and nature is analog.

    “Since as Strauss made clear BGV implies there wouldn’t even be space and time eternal to the past, something supernatural is the best explanation of the origin of the universe.”

    It implies a classical physics model might not be eternal, but has nothing to say in regards to quantum mechanics. Vilenkin suspects it could be extended to a quantum theory, but until we know what that theory is the apologists aren’t warranted in saying that science proves that the universe had a beginning.

    “It doesn’t seem reasonable to expect that all necessary truths require explanations though – e.g. there is no cause for the law of non-contradiction. One cannot explain how it came to be true – it’s eternally and necessarily true.”

    The cause for the law of non-contradiction is the stability of matter. The “law” of non-contradiction is a description of the physical world. It’s not transcendent, it’s dependent on THINGS. In an immaterial realm there are no things to contradict each other.

    “Whatever caused the universe to come into existence must simply have been outside the universe (super-natural).”

    This ties in with Terry’s comment below…

    “Assuming that causality still applies (and without evidence to the contrary, I think we do well to assume that it does), either it was acted upon by something external to it which triggered the big bang, or it moved itself… it decided to create our universe. Occam argues against multiplying causes unnecessarily, so simply based on that, it would seem that this second object… this trigger… is unlikely to exist.”

    I don’t see how you can say that causality still applies. Everything, EVERYTHING, we know about causality is physical. Apologists like WL Craig can go on about god being the “efficient” cause of the universe, but he’s only cherry picking an aspect of causality and applying it to a situation that we have no reason to believe can occur. All efficient causes we know are physical. Not only that all causes we know of deal with pre-exisiting material being rearranged. We have no reason to suppose that there is such a thing as causation from nothing. We also have no reason to think that the version of “nothing” you fellows like to use actually has anything to do with reality. You can console yourself and wish away this with “He’s enormously powerful” but you can’t expect people (who don’t believe the same as you) to find this convincing at all because it is in no way an explanation, it’s more of a cop out.
    “So we have a single ‘point’ that exists alone in zero dimensions (spaceless) existing causally prior to time (timeless) with no length or width (immaterial) that is so vastly (intelligent) that it can design our entire universe, and powerful enough to do so (omnipotent… as the creator of our universe, this point can likely manipulate any facet of our universe at will which to us is omnipotence).”

    I’m sorry, but you have no reason other than presuppositions to assume any of these attributes. Spaceless . . . how does something exist nowhere? Brings up a lot of questions about heaven. Is it a place? Is god there? I guess not since he’s got no space or material and you kind of need those things to be a place. Timeless . . . how do you do anything without the passage of time? Hard to place chess in Heaven without time and material to make a chessboard or some space to put it. Immaterial . . . how do you make things without having things to make things with? Intelligent and powerful. . . why assume that? Why not an being that accidentally set in motion something simple that grew into our universe and it evolved in its own way apart from his intervention and you’ve been fooled by ancient writers who believed magic and a nagging quirk of our species to reach for an easy, unprovable answer?

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  9. kenwsmith54 says:

    As long as Christians allow Young Earth Creationists to say stupid things, without confronting the errors (accidental and deliberate) in the YEC worldview, then we indirectly encourage others to say, “Creationists are stupid.”

    To reach out to my nonChristian friends in the sciences, I would begin by saying, “Yes, the YEC viewpoint is stupid. Yes, there is an evolutionary process. In general, scientific exploration is good and (eventually) trustworthy.” If we want to talk intelligently to atheists, we need to not hide the stupidity in our own ranks. I think most of my nonChristian friends hear misdirection and deception in the silence of intelligent Christians regarding YEC.

    At night I can point out the Andromeda galaxy, visible to the naked eye. I can explain that based primarily on fairly simple mathematics, we estimate it to be 1.5 million lightyears away and the light you see tonight is presumably 1.5 million years old. I can show you TONIGHT — this very evening! — something that is more than 1 million years old, by any *reasonable* interpretation of basic science. Yet “Creationists” (yes, YE Creationists) deny this and taint us all with their stupidity.

    Reply
  10. Terry L says:

    Toby, you asked,

    Who’s definition and how did it originate?

    You don’t really want me to give a Philosophy of Religion lecture here do you? 😉

    I’ve explained to you before how I arrive at those attributes, and I do it without resorting to scripture at all, but only to science. Can you take scientific discoveries and find evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster or your lime-green elephant?

    Your critique of Anselm blissfully ignores the philosophical reasoning behind the “definitional acrobatics”, as you call them.

    If we designed circles in a different shape then pi wouldn’t be useful.

    This doesn’t work. We didn’t “design” the circle. We may have named a planar figure consisting of all points equidistant from a given point and called it a “circle”, but whatever it is named, the ratio of the diameter to the circumference would still be useful, and would still be 3.1415…. Man didn’t design that, nor can we change its attribute.

    Compare a light-year to a meter. The meter is somewhat arbitrarily defined; if we wanted to change it, we could do so. However, we cannot change the value of a light-year. We might rename it, but we cannot change it. It is necessarily what it is, independent of any man.

    Vilenkin suspects [BGV] could be extended to a quantum theory, but until we know what that theory is the apologists aren’t warranted in saying that science proves that the universe had a beginning.

    All of the best scientific evidence we have, and all of the best philosophical evidence as well, agrees that the universe cannot have been eternal. Krauss himself admitted during the debates with WLC that “All the evidence suggests our universe had a beginning.” (www.maverick-christian.org/2013/10/krauss-and-craig.html) So it seems that you aren’t warranted in saying that, “well, here is a gap in our knowledge, but surely science will fill it in someday!” You rightfully call theists out when we do that; let’s be consistent!

    And more importantly, Vilenkin’s thoughts were based on two possible models… models which he shows cannot be past-eternal for other reasons than the BGV theorem. WLC addresses this question on his website, complete with copies of email’s from Vilenkin himself clarifying the issue: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/honesty-transparency-full-disclosure-and-bgv-theorem.

    The cause for the law of non-contradiction is the stability of matter. The “law” of non-contradiction is a description of the physical world. It’s not transcendent, it’s dependent on THINGS. In an immaterial realm there are no things to contradict each other.

    Could you explain how this is true? In a universe where matter was unstable, could you say that “matter is stable” and “matter is unstable” were both true? In an immaterial realm, would it be true that no matter exists? Would it be true that matter does exist? It seems that even there, logic must apply.

    I don’t see how you can say that causality still applies. Everything, EVERYTHING, we know about causality is physical.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, are you saying that if we don’t know anything about something, it cannot be true? Our knowledge about it makes it true?

    But if all that is physical is a contingent entity… that is, it didn’t HAVE to exist, then how do you think the whole thing got started in the first place? What do you see as being the necessarily-existing cause of all of these contingent causes?

    Not only that all causes we know of deal with pre-exisiting material being rearranged. We have no reason to suppose that there is such a thing as causation from nothing.

    Christians have never claimed that nothing caused something. We claim that God, who exists outside of and independently of the time, space, matter and energy in our universe, caused our universe to come into existence without using any of the matter, energy, or time in our universe… because it didn’t exist until God created it out of his own power.

    It is the atheist who must either argue for creation from complete nothingness, or for eternally existing matter. Both models have severe scientific and philosophical difficulties that the theist doesn’t face.

    We also have no reason to think that the version of “nothing” you fellows like to use actually has anything to do with reality.

    Toby, how long are you going to blame this definition on the theist? This is the scientist’s conclusions, not those of the theist.

    But beyond that, you really cannot conceive of a condition where absolutely nothing… no thing at all, exists? If you started eliminating atoms from our universe one at a time, you can’t imagine the state that must exist when the very last atom winked out of existence? (Yes, that would still arguably leave space and time, but let’s start with the simpler condition…)

    Again for the sake of argument, let’s say Krauss et. al. are correct, and the universe jumped into existence from a quantum vacuum….

    Where did the quantum vacuum come from? Why did it exist? If it waited around for an eternity before bootstrapping our universe into existence, then how did it traverse an infinite number of days?

    You see, even if Krauss is correct, all he’s done is moved the goalposts. He’s shoved the origin point further back, and you still need something external to our universe (which cannot contain an infinite supply of energy to fuel itself for an eternity) in order to get it started.

    You can console yourself and wish away this with “He’s enormously powerful” but you can’t expect people (who don’t believe the same as you) to find this convincing at all because it is in no way an explanation, it’s more of a cop out.

    If we claimed that God was powerful solely in terms of the power in our universe, you might have a point. However, if that’s what you’re arguing against, it’s a straw man. You, on the other hand, seem to believe that an eternally-existing universe somehow has an unlimited supply of energy to keep it operating in perpetuity. How is that not the same as what you accuse the theist of?

    God’s power does not originate in this universe. It is not of this universe. It does not depend on this universe. If anything, God’s power might be the at the core of the stuff that our universe is made of, but that’s just my sheer spectulation, (and probably unworthy of even bringing up, but I’ll throw it out there anyway!)

    I’m sorry, but you have no reason other than presuppositions to assume any of these attributes. Spaceless . . . how does something exist nowhere?

    Straw man. “Spaceless” doesn’t mean “nowhere”. It means, “at no location in our universe.” Even scientists are currently looking into multiverse theory which postulates the existence of realms that are not co-located in our own universe. I think they are, to a degree, on the right track. At least they’re not looking in our own universe for the source of our universe!

    Timeless . . . how do you do anything without the passage of time?

    Good question, and I’m not certain whether I believe in a form of Hypertime that is similar, but different to our own time, or in a true atemporal state.

    But at this point, we are temporal. We say God is atemporal, or timeless, because he created time; therefore he cannot be dependent on time as we know it.

    Immaterial . . . how do you make things without having things to make things with?

    Another straw man. Can you truly not envision the possibility of something existing outside of the universe we know? “Immaterial” doesn’t mean without form or substance… it means that the immaterial object does not consist of matter or energy from our universe.

    Why not an being that accidentally set in motion something simple that grew into our universe and it evolved in its own way apart from his intervention and you’ve been fooled by ancient writers who believed magic and a nagging quirk of our species to reach for an easy, unprovable answer?

    Simply because the math doesn’t add up.

    The probability of our universe arising based on sheer chance alone is simply far too low to be taken seriously. And you can’t claim that it must have happened that way because we’re here. That’s not an explanation… it’s begging the question. If someone won the lottery 50 times in a row, then someone would be looking for an intelligent agent behind their selection of numbers. The odds against our universe arising without direction is far greater than that, yet the atheist doesn’t bat an eye at those odds.

    And to call Theism an “easy” answer does a disservice to many great scholars who have wrestled with these concepts over the centuries. While God’s existence may be technically “unprovable”, neither is atheism “provable”. I see plenty of evidence sufficient to convince me of the truth of theism.

    And by the way, it could also be said of the atheist that he looks for the easy, unprovable answer; feeling the conviction of his immorality, he denies that there is a judge waiting to call him to a final accounting after this life is over. It’s much easier to stick one’s head in the sand, ignore God, and hope he goes away. This critique cuts both ways!

    -tl

    Reply
  11. Stefan Frello says:

    I wonder what Arno Penzias ment by the Quote in the beginning of the post.
    Can he read in the bible that the first elements were Hydrogene and Helium? Can he read about inflation? Can he read about the Cosmological Background Radiation. Can he read that earth is appr. 9 billion years yonger than the Universe?
    Jst wonder?

    Reply
    • Allen Hainline says:

      Thanks for your question Stefan and it’s certainly true that the Bible doesn’t get into these type of details. Personally I find it unsurprising that God did not even try to reveal scientific details to ancient people who would not have understood anyway. God is more interested in revealing the broad but important concept that He created the universe out of nothing physical. Ancient peoples generally deified creation (e.g. the sun, moon and stars etc.) but Genesis declares these to be mere creation. Everything was simply created by God. I think Penzias just found it significant that not until the early 20th century did non-believers think that the universe had a beginning – or at least there was certainly no empirical evidence yet for it. However, the Bible did make the radical claim that the universe was created. Penzias knew that if there was a cataclysmic high energy beginning to the universe that it would leave a residual radiation that would now be at microwave energy levels. Finding this predicted evidence confirmed the Big Bang theory over the steady state theory, something which the Bible had weighed in on as well (clearly claiming the universe had a beginning and was not eternal).

      Reply
  12. Martyn Cornell says:

    “the Bible did make the radical claim that the universe was created” – hardly radical. There probably wasn’t a religion in the region that didn’t have a creation myth.Why do you think yours is right and eg the Greek one wasn’t? And again you’re claiming that this universe is unique and therefore created – on what evidence do you base its uniqueness?

    Reply
    • Allen Hainline says:

      I should have explained why I think the Biblical view of creation was somewhat radical or unusual. First, most ancient creation myths that I’m familiar with had a god or gods creating out of preexisting material while the Bible claims a creation ex-nihilo for the creation of the universe. In Titus and Jude it seems to speak of even time having a beginning – which is somewhat radical but fits well with modern physics (e.g., singularity theorems and the BVG theorem). Many ancient Greek thinkers actually posited an eternal universe – which therefore would not have been created at all. The Bible claims in about 10 different versions that the heavens are being stretched out. Perhaps the 4 or 5 or so authors just got lucky on this or just meant it metaphorically but it certainly is consistent with the modern understanding of an expanding universe and is not a prediction I’m aware was made by other religions. So I think that there were some aspects of Biblical creation which were different than other major religions but which are now known to be accurate relative to our modern scientific understanding.

      Reply
  13. Daniel DeLuca says:

    What do you think of Barry Setterfield’s argument that the earth and the universe are billions of atomic light years old?

    Reply

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