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Why does the universe exist? - An answer to atheism

When I was a freshman in high school, I encountered the following argument for the existence of God. The argument was a lengthy quote in a book I was reading by Dr. Henry M. Morris, founder of the Creation Research institute. I have found this argument to be air tight and irrefutable. It became the basis for accepting many tenets of Christian orthodoxy that many intellectuals and “free-thinkers” of my generation have dismissed out of hand.

Case in point: Atheists charge that Christians need to resort to “special pleading” in explaining the supernatural accounts of the Bible. Special pleading in this case is the introduction of unprovable causes to explain unproven effects. That is, given a biblical history that includes miraculous events that are, by definition, “impossible” according to natural scientific laws, the only way to rationalize these “supernatural” occurrences is to postulate the existence of an all-powerful Creator God. The atheist argues that miracles do not occur in the observable universe for the simple reason that natural laws prohibit supernatural occurrences. Therefore, the lack of the “necessity” for a supernatural Creator Being leads the atheist to a firm lack of belief.

I would respond to the charge of “special pleading” by stating that atheism requires special pleading, but Christian theism does not.

Theism just proposes a logical solution to the primary existential paradox.

What is the Existential Paradox?

I will here explain the existential paradox — the problem of existence — in the rational terms of physical science. I have quoted and paraphrased Dr. Henry M. Morris’ argument in several places.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that the universe had a beginning in that the universe could never have existed in a time prior to being in a state of total available energy.

Why?

Simply because the First Law of Thermodynamics shows that the universe could not have begun itself. The First Law states that the total quantity of energy in the universe is a constant and neither matter nor energy can be created nor destroyed.

Science cannot explain why matter cannot be created or destroyed. We just know that this is impossible in a purely natural system governed by physical laws. Matter and energy may be converted one into another, but beyond that, energy simply has “no place to go.”

The Second Law states that the quantity of available energy is decreasing.

Therefore, as we go backward in time, the available energy is progressively greater until, finally, we reach the beginning point, where available energy equals total energy.

Time could go back no further than this. At this point, both energy and time must have come into existence in our known universe.

One might hypothesize that the universe was simply “still” at this point and had no beginning. However, this is impossible, since movement is always taking place wherever there is matter even if it is the movement of kinetic energy at the molecular level.

One might also hypothesize that it is meaningless to talk about a “before” in time when the universe was compressed into state of total energy because at this point in time, as time and matter are relative to each other, eternity existed in a moment.

While this is true, it doesn’t solve the problem of there being a system with all the available energy in the universe being compressed into a single point and space in time.

The scientific conundrum from a purely metaphysical naturalist point of view is that energy cannot create itself, or come into existence from non-existence by itself.

Something else besides the known universe must exist in order for the known universe to exist.

The most scientific and logical conclusion we could possibly state is that:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

The atheist will not accept this conclusion, however.

He instead hypothesizes that either:

1. Some natural law canceling out the Second Law prevailed far back in time.

2. Some natural law canceling out the Second Law prevails far out in space.

3. Some force more powerful than all the energy in the known universe brought our universe into being.

When he makes the first two assumptions, however, he is denying his own metaphysical naturalism, which says that all things can be explained in terms of presently observable laws and processes.

In the third assumption, the atheist is only denying the inevitable, that someone or something created the known universe.

In all three cases, the atheist is really resorting to creationism, but just refuses to acknowledge a personal Creator God.

If the atheist would be epistemologically honest in admitting this, Christian theists could have some respect for their position and meaningful dialog would result.

But since this is not the case, all the atheist can do is attack belief in God as something he lacks. He can never defend his on position without resorting to the convoluted and contradictory argument that attacks the supernatural as something that is not naturally possible.

He is correct. Natural laws cannot explain or describe supernatural events adequately. However, the existence of the natural universe itself according to its own self-contained physical laws requires a supernatural cause.

Comments

Your comments are welcome!

The universe may have an as-yet-unexplained cause, but

(1) that doesn't make it supernatural, it just makes it not well understood, and

(2) it's a huge leap to go from there to the conclusion that there must be a creator God.

So, please explain to me how, because I don't understand how the Universe began, I should therefore believe in virgin births and miracle healings the infallibility of the clergy and a creator God who, with the whole Universe at his disposal, for some reason interests himself in the activities of one particular species on a minor planet in a minor system in a minor galaxy.

I'm not quite seeing the connection.

Posted by Matt on 11/09/2008 07:47 AM #

Let's first get this straight.

Are you admitting that the universe could not have existed prior to a certain point?

If so, you are proposing an ex nihilo creation -- the creation of the entire universe out of nothing -- one that Genesis 1:3 says occurred with one spoken word: "Let there be light."

Are you saying you agree with this ex nihilo creation, but just aren't sure we can say with certainty it is the "God" of the Bible?

Posted by Jay Rogers on 11/09/2008 01:31 PM #

You do realize that the current theory for the universe is that it is finite, but it doesn't have a beginning?

Don't argue with me- it is Hawkings pet idea.

Interestingly enough, even without conclusive evidence one way or another, we can use Occum's Razor to solve this. The universe exists so why not accept it is self caused? God is simply an extraneous and needless addition.

Posted by Samuel Skinner on 11/09/2008 06:03 PM #

The universe does not have a beginning.

This implies that matter can exist without time.

This is false.

Wherever there is matter there is time.

If time had a beginning then the material universe had a beginning.

I am not a physicist, but I know that time is measured as a function of how matter (space) interacts with movement (energy). That much is a no-brainer. Even ancient philosophers such as St. Augustine recognized that.

In fact, Hawking quotes Augustine in his book, A Brief History of Time. Hawking is the guy responsible for "proving" the big bang. When he did that he proved that there COULD be a God, at least as a hypothesis to explain how a material universe with a beginning could have come into existence. Although as an agnostic, he is probably looking now for an "out."

Why not simply admit that there is no natural or scientific explanation of how the universe came into being.

I don't think there is a physicist alive who would state that any recent model is proven as a fact.

But all physicists agree that wherever there is matter there is time.

The best counter-argument you could offer would be to postulate an infinitely existing universe (one with no beginning and no end) that always existed.

But you would have to admit that you don't have an explanation of how that is possible or how the universe could have existed prior to the time of total available energy.

This is the reason why physicists are torn between the model of the big bang and an expanding/contracting universe.

If they argue for the big bang, they run into the problem of a cause for the big bang, which contradicts the First Law.

If they argue that the universe eventually collapses, they run into the problem of entropy being converted back into available energy, which contradicts the Second Law.

I am not arguing that God is an energy source. If so, I'd run into the same problem of an existential beginning for God.

The idea of a Creator God has occurred to every school of philosophy because it solves the problem of cause and effect. If everything in the universe is determined by a cause eventually there had to be a first cause.

But this eventual first cause has to be SUPER natural.

So unless all the models of physics ever proposed are wrong, the universe was created by a SUPER natural force or being.

There must be something outside the natural world -- that is greater and more powerful than what we can measure -- otherwise the natural world could not run according to its own laws.

If time had a beginning then the material universe had a beginning. But in order for the MATERIAL universe to exist, there must be some type of existence other than the material.

Whether you want to admit this SUPER natural Creator of the Universe is the God of the Bible is a secondary issue.

Posted by Jay Rogers on 11/09/2008 07:53 PM #

Most of modern physics has been spent showing how common sense is not a valid way of understanding the nature of the universe.

"I am not a physicist, but I know that time is measured as a function of how matter (space) interacts with movement (energy). That much is a no-brainer. Even ancient philosophers such as St. Augustine recognized that."

Actually, it isn't. Time is a property of space itself- hence space time. There cannot a "before" for the universe, because that requires time, which didn't exist.

"In fact, Hawking quotes Augustine in his book, A Brief History of Time. Hawking is the guy responsible for "proving" the big bang. When he did that he proved that there COULD be a God, at least as a hypothesis to explain how a material universe with a beginning could have come into existence. Although as an agnostic, he is probably looking now for an "out.""

Except the Big Bang is a naturalistic explanation and hence doesn't require God.

"Why not simply admit that there is no natural or scientific explanation of how the universe came into being."

There used to be no natural or scientific explanation for why certain rocks produced energy. Than we realized that atoms are not indivisible and discovered radioactivity. Just because we don't know the answer, doesn't mean there isn't an answer.

"I don't think there is a physicist alive who would state that any recent model is proven as a fact."

Uh... by definition, models aren't facts. They are a way to present information by eliminating certain details- hence they do not truely conform to reality.

"But you would have to admit that you don't have an explanation of how that is possible or how the universe could have existed prior to the time of total available energy."

You do realize that supernatural is a synonym for magic? I don't know about you, but saying that something is magic is a major lack of imagination of someone part. There are answers and for all things we have found them. Why should this be differant?

"If they argue for the big bang, they run into the problem of a cause for the big bang, which contradicts the First Law.

If they argue that the universe eventually collapses, they run into the problem of entropy being converted back into available energy, which contradicts the Second Law."

You do realize that the laws of physics are statistical phenomena? More to the point, those two are occaionally violated on the quantum level... which, interestingly enough is the size of the start of the big bang.

"The idea of a Creator God has occurred to every school of philosophy because it solves the problem of cause and effect. If everything in the universe is determined by a cause eventually there had to be a first cause.

But this eventual first cause has to be SUPER natural.

So unless all the models of physics ever proposed are wrong, the universe was created by a SUPER natural force or being."

We don't understand how things work so we declare it is magic? Ha! And where did this "magic" come from? Wait- the whole point of declaring it magic is that you don't have to explain it!

Or you can simply declare that the universe itself caused itself- no reason why the whole is bound by the same rule its parts are. Amazingly enough, this approach is the more logical of the two, due to a logical tool known as Occum's Razor.

"There must be something outside the natural world -- that is greater and more powerful than what we can measure -- otherwise the natural world could not run according to its own laws."

Uh... you do realize that the laws of the universe are emergent? They occur from the random actions of uncounted trillions of particles and it averages out to make the universe we know and love. It no magic to support it.

"Whether you want to admit this SUPER natural Creator of the Universe is the God of the Bible is a secondary issue."

Except it could apply equally well to the universe itself.

As it is, I will have to explain two things- Occum's Razor and the use of the word magic.

Occum's Razor:
http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/Occam.html

As for refering to supernatural as magic... let the dictionary do the talking (I cropped it a bit).

"1: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil2 a: departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature b: attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)"

and magic

" the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces a: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source"

There are about the same- magic is just using supernatural power. Which would fit this explanation like a glove.

Posted by Samuel Skinner on 12/09/2008 02:26 AM #

Jay said "why not simply admit that there is no natural or scientific explanation of how the universe came into being?"

I did admit that, sort of. There is currently no natural or scientific explanation.

But that doesn't mean there's necessarily a supernatural explanation. And it definitely doesn't mean it's necessarily your supernatural explanation.

All you've done is point to a gap in our knowledge and fill it with God.

Posted by Matt on 12/09/2008 05:52 AM #

I know what "Occam's razor" is and I also know that there can be no "before time." There isn't a "simplest explanation in this case."

You seem to be taking my argument as "the universe could not exist before time, therefore God created it."

That is not what I am saying at all. I am not saying there was "time" before matter existed.

I am saying that the universe did not exist at one point because it is impossible for the universe to exist as pure energy indefinitely.

The universe could not have existed as total available energy for more than a very small fraction of a second -- because that defies the Second Law of Thermodyamics.

Prior to that point (I am not saying there was "time" before time) something or someone created the universe because it could not come into existence by itself -- because that defies the First Law of Thermodynamics.

Posted by Jay Rogers on 12/09/2008 08:09 AM #

Posted by Jay Rogers on 12/09/2008 08:18 AM #

You don't seem to grasp it- here.

Uncaused Universe
OR
Uncaused God-> Universe

Now, which has more parts?

"I am saying that the universe did not exist at one point because it is impossible for the universe to exist as pure energy indefinitely."

You have been watching to much Star Trek. Energy is a property of matter- except if it is radiated, which requires space to go through.

"There was a point when time and matter came into existence from non-existence. Physicists who hold to the Big Bang say that, they just cannot explain how this is possible."

Have you ever heard of quantum foaming? It is a phenomena where matter and energy spontaneously come into existance.

You seem to think that the laws of nature apply to the beginning of the universe... even though physicists have shown that the laws were differant then. I mean, the four fundamental forces were a single one at the start!

You keep choosing the more complicated option- that there is a supernatural. There are a host of simpler ones.
- The laws of thermodynamics do not apply in certain conditions (see Newton's laws versus General Relativity).
- The universe itself is self caused.
- The laws of nature are emergent and do not apply for the scale the universe began with.

I don't know- what I do know is that your explanation does not infact explain anything and adds an extremely large amount of unnecesary parts. It is WAY down on the list of reasonable explanations.

Posted by Samuel Skinner on 12/09/2008 08:22 PM #

So in effect you are taking "out" number one:

1. Some natural law canceling out the Second Law prevailed far back in time.

The laws were different back then.

Where I disagree with you is that physicists have proven this.

Physicists have in fact proposed this as a hypothesis to explain the "existential paradox."

Can you point me to experiments or observations where it has been proven?

Posted by Jay Rogers on 12/09/2008 10:04 PM #

I also appreciate your honesty, Sam, in saying, "I don't know."

Atheists are intellectually dishonest and wrong in claiming they "know."

Agnostics are honest, but still wrong. It is possible to know God.

Posted by Jay Rogers on 12/09/2008 10:08 PM #

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The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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