Why think there’s a God? (1): Something from Nothing

Let us start with the universe, the whole thing, the big picture. Why is there a universe? Why is there something rather than nothing? And how did all come about? These are big questions. Philosophers discuss these questions when looking at what is known as “the cosmological argument”.
There are many different ways of approaching the cosmological argument and many ways of stating it, but here is one common formulation:

1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause
2. The universe had a beginning
3. Therefore the universe had a cause

This is a deductive argument so if the premises (1 and 2) are true then the conclusion (3) is true. Intuitively, I think most people would accept the first premise and nowadays almost all philosophers and scientists accept the second premise, so it seems probable that the conclusion is true.

English: WMAP observes the first light of the ...

WMAP observes the first light of the universe- the afterglow of the Big Bang. This light emerged 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Patterns imprinted on this light encode the events that happened only a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. In turn, the patterns are the seeds of the development of the structures of galaxies we now see billions of years after the Big Bang. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good way to think about this is to try to imagine the alternatives. If the universe did not have a cause then either it didn’t have a beginning or popped into existence from nothing. But the universe did have a beginning. Around 14 billion years ago the universe began with the Big Bang. But the other alternative doesn’t seem particularly likely either. If you can get something from nothing, why do scientists spend so much time an effort looking for causes and explanations? If universes can just pop into existence uncaused then what is there to stop a brand new universe popping into existence in my shoe, say, or in my tea. If you find it just a little bit too unbelievable that the universe just winked into existence without rhyme or reason, then it must have had a cause.

The obvious follow-up question is what sort of cause are we looking for? The universe is space and time; what came into existence at the Big Bang was space and time. So whatever caused the universe to exist, whatever caused space and time to exist, must not exist in space (non-spatial) and must not exist in time (non-temporal) but – and this is the important bit – must also have cause power sufficient to kick off the Big Bang. And if you think about it, there aren’t that many options. If you are the sort of person who believes in abstract objects (i.e. that things like the number 3 aren’t just concepts but have independent existence) then you might identify abstract objects as potential candidates. After all, they are non-spatial and non-temporal. Unfortunately abstract objects don’t have causal power (the number 3 can’t cause anything). The only other available alternative seems to be an eternal and immaterial mind, and that sounds a lot like God.

“Aha!”, the atheist cries, “if the universe requires a cause surely God requires a cause too”. But this would be to misunderstand the argument. The universe requires a cause because it had a beginning (i.e. it is not eternal). But, God does not have a beginning (he is eternal) and so does not require a cause.

So if you can’t get something from nothing (and you can’t) and if the universe had a beginning (and it did) then it seems you need (some kind of) God.

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To be continued

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Additional literature

  1. Where did God come from?
  2. Attributes to God
  3. No good thing will he withhold
  4. Onsterfelijkheid – Immortaliteit
  5. Cosmos creator and human destiny
  6. Why is the age of the universe so different to the age of the Earth?
  7. Bible and Science (2): In the Beginning
  8. Bible and Science (3): Something From Nothing
  9. Bible and Science (4): How Did the Beginning Begin?
  10. Why did God take 6 days to create the universe? Why not do it in 1?
  11. Creator and Blogger God 3 Lesson and solution
  12. Trusting, Faith, calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #3 Voice of God #1 Creator and His Prophets

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From other denominations:

  • The First Cause (christianreasons.com)
    The Cosmological Argument takes the reality of the cosmos to entail the existence of a something that created it.
  • Why the Kalam Cosmological Argument fails, and why it doesn’t matter anyway (freethinkingjew.com)
    There’s no way this amazing world could have come into existence by itself.  There must have been some sort of “uncaused cause” that created the universe.Philosophers have been aware of these sorts of arguments for many centuries, and yet philosophers have, by and large, rejected these arguments.  It’s easy to see why, when even just an average freethinker like me can see where these arguments fall short.
  • The 7 Most Intriguing Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God (io9.com)
    Nietzsche is famous for saying that God is dead, but news of The Almighty’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. Here are some of the most fascinating and provocative philosophical arguments for the existence of God.
  • Allan Gotthelf on Ayn Rand on the Existence of God (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
    According to the axiom of existence, “Existence exists.”  Gotthelf takes this to mean that Something exists. (37)  If that is what it means, then it is indeed a self-evident truth.  For example, it is self-evident (to me) that I exist, which of course entails that something exists.  But it is equally self-evident (to me) that I am conscious.  For if I were not conscious then I would not be able to know that I exist and that something exists.  “That one exists possessing consciousness is the axiom of consciousness, the second philosophic axiom.” (38)The first axiom is logically prior to the second.  This is called the primacy of existence and it too is axiomatic though not a separate axiom. “The thesis that existence comes first — that things exist independent of consciousness and that consciousness is a faculty not for the creation of its objects but for the discovery of them — Ayn Rand call the primacy of existence.” (39)
  • The Cosmological Argument: Arguments Put Forward By Copleston In His Radio Debate With Russell (olaleyedesola.wordpress.com)
    The radio debate between Copleston and Russell occurred in 1948. Copleston was arguing as a Jesuit priest with the firm belief that the cosmological argument is a logical proposition that God must exist. Bertrand Russell, on the other hand, was arguing as an agnostic with the belief that not everything has a cause because the whole concept of causes derived from man’s observation of particular things. Therefore, according to Russell, to say that God is the cause of the universe is rather illogical. The debate as a whole was split into two parts: the arguments from contingency and the moral argument.
  • The Cosmological Argument Defined (herose4grace.wordpress.com)
    The cosmological argument is in disguise.  In its premise, it calls on experience to prove the existence of God but in its untainted bounds, it is an argument of reason.  The main point of this argument is the simple premise that something can not come from nothing. It is our experience that dictates this absolute.St. Aquinas proposes the cosmological argument which begins by recognizing certain facts of experience and acknowledges the existence of God to explain these facts.  This argument, therefore claims to be a posteriori, i.e., based on observation and experience as opposed to a priori which is based on reason.
  • Essential Doctrines (Part 1): The Doctrine of God’s Existence (pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com)
    The doctrine of God that needs to hold true for the Christian faith is that of theism. Norman Geisler explains theism as, …the worldview that an infinite, personal God created the universe and miraculously intervenes in it from time to time (see Miracle). God is both transcendent over the universe and immanent in it” (Geisler BECA 1999, 722). Geisler mentions that theism holds that God is both transcendent and immanent. These elements of belief in God are essential to the Christian doctrine. One could prove God’s existence without proving Christianity, but one cannot prove Christianity without proving the existence of a theistic God. Transcendence means that God exists as a separate entity from the universe. In contrast to pantheistic religions, God exists apart from the universe. Therefore, the universe is a creation of God. Immanence describes God’s working within the universe. Deists, like Thomas Jefferson, believe in God’s existence, but do not hold that God works within creation. Creation is like a wound-up clock and is ticking apart from God on its’ own. However, theists understand that God works in creation. God reveals God’s self to human beings (e.g. revelation).
  • William Lane Craig lectures on naturalistic alternatives to the Big Bang (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    This lecture might be a little advanced for beginners, but if you stretch your mind first, you shouldn’t tear anything.
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    The Big Bang cosmology that Dr. Craig presents is the standard model for how the universe came into being. It is a theory based on six lines of experimental evidence.
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    here’s a re-cap of the three main evidences for the Big Bang cosmology from Caltech.
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    The whole text of the article is posted online here.
  • Storkersen: God and The Big Bang Theory (iegrapevine.com)
    The man who theorized the big bang theory, George Lemaître, was an astronomer and professor of physics at a university in Belgium in the 1920s. In addition, he was a Catholic priest.
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    The fact is that while Lemaître attributed the cause of the big bang to God, it has been distorted over time and the cause has been attributed to matter or nothingness.There are various reasons why these two ideas coincide.
  • Does God Exist?: Trying to See Both Sides of the Question (adamstask.wordpress.com)
    Suppose:1) There exist things that are caused.
    2) Nothing can be the cause of itself.
    3) There cannot be an actual infinite regress of causes.
    4) There exists an uncaused first cause.
    5) The word God means uncaused first cause.
    6) Therefore, God exists.
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    the reason we ascribe to scientific facts some sort of objective and, in a sense, absolute nature is that they are validated by real-world experience; science begins in theoretical postulation, but if it is to be validated it must end in prediction of observations. And in the case of many multi-verse theories or other such theories one is left with only theoretical postulations that are less parsimonious and sensible than God.
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    the properties of God have intrinsic maximums. For instance, one could define perfect knowledge this way: for any proposition, an omniscient being knows whether is is true or false. An omnipotent being can do anything that is logically possible. An omnibenevolent being will always do what is right in terms of maximizing the good.
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    One of the ways in which Swinburne creates a more interesting argument for the case of theism is by rejecting deductive arguments, in the spirit of Cleanthes, for inductive arguments. Swinburne’s overall argument is placed within the setting of confirmation theory. He distinguishes between P-inductive statements, where the premises make the conclusion probable, from C-inductive statements, where the premises confirm the probability of the conclusion or make it more probable than it otherwise would be. 
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How to falsify a religion using scientific or historical evidence

With cyphers, diagrams and statistics people can juggle. It is true that every reasonable person can evaluate and reject different worldviews using evidence. For that reason it is also very important to know which reference works he uses as his basic or fundamental teachings and background.

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  • Cosmological evidence for leptonic asymmetry after Planck [CEA] (arxiver.wordpress.com)
    Recently, the Planck satellite found a larger and most precise value of the matter energy density, that impacts on the present values of other cosmological parameters such as the Hubble constant, the present cluster abundances and the age of the Universe. The existing tension between Planck determination of these parameters in the frame of the base LambdaCDM model and their direct measurements generated lively discussions and several interpretations.
  • A Dark Energy Mission (telescoper.wordpress.com)
    Here’s a challenge for cosmologists and aspiring science communicators out there. Most of you will know the standard cosmological model involves a thing, called Dark Energy, whose existence is inferred from observations that suggest that the expansion of the Universe appears to be accelerating.
  • The long war: a history of the conflict between religion and science (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    Many in cosmology have never made any secret of their dislike of the Big Bang, the generally accepted start to our universe first suggested by Belgian priest Georges Lemaître (1894-1966).

    On the face of it, that is odd. The theory accounts well enough for the evidence. Nothing ever completely accounts for all the evidence, of course, because evidence is always changing a bit. But the Big Bang has enabled accurate prediction.
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    Now I want to make a very, very important point about Christianity and the progress of science. And that point is that it is very important that Christians present the evidence in exactly the way that Denyse presented it in that article – in its historical context, featuring the conflict between naturalists and the experimental evidence.

  • big bang theory expiry date!? how much does the “horizon problem” undermine “big bang cosmology”? – 04min (societystacktrace.wordpress.com)
    Did you know the “Big Bang” has some scientifically recognized problems in terms of things that don’t fit observed phenomena & actual measurements? Enter the “Horizon Problem”. But wait! …the “Inflation Model” was supposed to rescue it all – then again, isn’t that just a theory?
  • What Caused the Big Bang? A Master Mason and Knight Templar Offers a Unique New Approach to Multiverse Cosmology (prweb.com)
    A central premise in Jeffrey Augustine’s work is that Infinity is a monolithic Unity. It is One. Augustine’s distinctive cosmology states that all universes are sub-infinite and are “sourced” by Infinity.

    Once sourced, Infinity launches these sub-infinite universes into the Multiverse in a “high-energy faster than light transfer process” that Augustine calls “Disunification.”

    Augustine says of this process, “Disunification is the mechanism whereby Infinity sources and then disunifies universes. Disunification is how Infinity populates the sub-infinite Multiverse. All of these sub-infinite universes can have different laws, thus allowing Infinity to realize every possible history and outcome as it evolves itself.”

  • How to falsify a religion using scientific or historical evidence (deadcitizensrightssociety.wordpress.com)
  • Ten Widely-believed Fallacies Today (christianityistrue.wordpress.com)
    Because Science has been proven to be the only reliable way to understand the physical world, it must be the only way to gain knowledge.
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    Modern public education is based on the false premise that The God of the Bible doesn’t exist.  So, from our very first days in school we are taught about a world in which God is irrelevant.  One is free to believe in God personally, but only if this belief has no impact on one’s life and understanding of the universe.  In other words, God is only acceptable if He is irrelevant and powerless.
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    There is plenty of evidence and arguments which show that belief in God is far more reasonable than believing that He doesn’t exist or, even, doubting that He does.  In a court of law, evidence will be sought and viewed differently by the prosecution and the defense.  Such is also the case between those believe in God’s existence and those who assume that God doesn’t exist.
  • Religion (thediaryofjensenvalentine.wordpress.com)
    Most of the religions were created thousands of years ago. When the man started questioning the world he was living in but the knowledge of that time wasn’t enough to give him the answers. Religion stepped into this void as supposedly it provided answers. Man made answers of course. It was the first attempts to philosophy just before science started. It has always been a brainwashing government tool. It kept the poor from murdering the rich back then. A psychological weapon. It forms the same ideology to people’s mind. Perhaps the most dangerous ideology ever because it’s not questionable. The criticizing of it could and still can cost your life. But that’s how the world changes. Criticizing old ideas. Yet, billions of people still believe man-made stories written thousands of years ago. If they read these books like they read any other, it would not be such a big of a problem. The problem is that people take everything in it literally. The talking snakes, the miracles etc. That’s one of the reasons to criticize religion. It makes potential intelligent people lose their sense of reality and say an enormous amount of stupid things, dumping down society.
  • Anfractuosity: The Case against Christianity as Will Fulfillment (birdandbabe.org)
    A common criticism levied against religion generally and Christianity specifically is that it is simply wish fulfillment, a human invention to help us manage our anxiety in the face of a chaotic world and eventual death.  Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true.  And Christianity is just whistling in the dark to keep our hopes alive.Some answer such arguments by saying that just because we desire it to be true, doesn’t mean we are inventing it.  Starving people didn’t invent the idea of food.  Human longing could be an indicator of truth as opposed to falsehood.
  • Can Atheism Be Proven Wrong? (gretachristina.typepad.com)
    Is there any possible evidence that would persuade atheists out of our atheism?And if not — does that make our atheism close-minded and dogmatic?

    There’s been an interesting debate lately in the atheist blogosphere. (The media will no doubt point to it as a sign of a terrible schism in the so-called New Atheist movement; but really, it’s been a very friendly and civil conversation so far, among people who are fundamentally allies.) The debate revolves around whether there’s any possible evidence that could convince atheists to change their minds… and if not, whether that makes their atheism an unshakable article of faith rather than a reasonable, evidence-based conclusion.

 

WINTERY KNIGHT

I notice that a lot of new atheists seem to think that “I don’t like it” can refute a religion. What I often see among atheists is this tendency to set up expectations of how God would have acted and then complain that he doesn’t met those expectations. I don’t think that this is a good way to argue against a religion, because it’s subjective. God isn’t obligated to comport with atheist expectations.

So in this post, I wanted to show how a reasonable person can evaluate and reject different worldviews using evidence.

Falsifying a religion using science

Consider this argument:

  1. Hindu cosmology teaches that the universe cycles between creation and destruction, through infinite time.
  2. The closest cosmological model conforming to Hindu Scriptures is the eternally “oscillating” model of the universe.
  3. The “oscillating” model requires that the universe exist eternally into the past.
  4. But the evidence today shows the the…

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