Review: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist – Chapter 3

3: IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS A GREAT SURGE

If we do not use circular reasoning and do not assume anything at all about the origin of the universe, then nothing is knowable through observation. It is also the case that nothing is knowable through deduction before the Big Bang because the universe began outside of space-time. The author appears to be persistently convinced that the laws of causality apply outside space-time, but he makes no argument to establish this and I would assert that he does not because there is such argument. He also makes a statement that is not agreed upon by cosmologists, that we would see all matter in the universe collapse back to a point… mathematically and logically to a point that is actually nothing (i.e., no space, no time, and no matter) (p 79). Competing models of the universe include a loop quantum gravity theory and an M-brane theory, both of which make potentially measureable claims which do not contradict the current rate of expansion of the universe.

The Cosmological argument says that everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence, but the rules of causality are a property of space-time, and the beginning of the universe occurred outside of space-time. In a debate between William Lane Craig and Wes Morriston, Morriston says that “creation out of nothing at all is at least as counterintuitive as is [the idea of] begging to exist without a cause…. If someone insists it is just ‘obvious’ that God could create a world without any pre-existing material stuff to work with, on the ground that there is no logical contradiction in the idea of such a feat, then the proper reply is that there is also no logical contradiction in the idea of the universe beginning without a cause”. What allows us to define “god” as an eternally existing being without a cause? It is equally possible to define an impersonal cause for the universe as having existed eternally.

How can we determine whether there can be a being that did not “have a beginning”? I take the following argument from Dan Barker (Godless, 130-144): The first statement of the argument implies that things can be divided between items that begin to exist and those that do not. If the set of items that do not begin to exist only contain one item, it is a synonym for god, and therefore is equivalent to “everything except God has a cause”. This begs the question of god’s existence by making god the definition of the premise of the argument. The cosmological argument succeeds if it can be shown that the set of items that do not begin to exist contains exactly one item from a set of candidates greater than one. If the only candidate for the set is god, then the second statement is equivalent to “the universe is not god”. Therefore, if the set is items that do not begin to exist is synonymous with god, the argument becomes:

“Everything except God has a cause.

The universe is not God.

Therefore, the universe has a cause.”

This is logical, but circular. However, if it is theoretically possible that there are multiple items that did not begin to exist, then it must also remain a possibility that there could be other explanations for the origin of the universe.

The key argument here is that the Law of Causality is dependent upon space-time. It is meaningless to point to an ordered causal sequence of events without using any reference of time. The author makes a lot of conclusions about what a First Cause must look like based on the idea that the universe had a beginning. But what do the terms limitless or infinite mean outside of space-time? Defining a thing outside of space-time by definitions dependent on space-time is nonsensical. Likewise, we must establish what are the properties of power, intelligence and choice if not defined within space-time.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

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