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Does the universe need a cause?

Published: 26 August 2012 (GMT+10)
NASA/Hubble Heritage TeamSombrero Galaxy

This week we have two feedback responses about the cosmological argument for a Creator. In the first, J.M. from the United States writes in response to article Who created God?, and CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies with comments interspersed. Then in the second response below, John T. from Switzerland wrote in response to the article Curiosity: Did God create the universe? Comments from CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland are interspersed:

I find it refreshing that this article attempts a proof at god using reliable evidence rather than circular logic.

Thanks, but we don’t actually claim this is a ‘proof’ of God, but rather the article shows that it is rational to conclude that a supernatural Creator like the one revealed in the Bible exists, based on the existence and nature of the creation.

I would like to point out, however, some fallacies therein. You claim that the universe must have had a supernatural cause due to the laws of thermodynamics; I assume you are siting entropy and the loss of energy therein. You then state that this requires the universe to have a beginning, and you are correct, it does. But it does not require a creator. Here is the underlying issue. Since relativity states that space and time are one and the same (space-time, it is aptly named) then before the universe existed, there was no time. Time was created along with our universe.

Aha, you said “created”. And we make this point ourselves here.

Therefore, the laws of entropy and thermodynamics would not take effect until the universe began. This being the case, it becomes theoretically possible that the point of infinite mass and zero volume our universe can begin without a sufficient cause, in the sense that there is nothing required to “set it in motion.”

We invoke the second law only to show that the universe had a beginning. You are missing the point with this diversion. Nothing you said overcomes the problem of something beginning without a cause. Also, why was it a universe that popped into being without a cause, not a tiger or banana for example?

Consider the following thought experiment. If time were to stop and then start up again, we would have no knowledge of what happened, and would not age; it would literally be as if nothing happened. This shows the duality of time. If time does not exist, than an infinite amount of “time” would be the same as an instant.

Or rather, both these terms would have no meaning before time was created.

Imagine, for a moment, that we were outside observers of the creation of the universe. Relative to us, it would seem as if the point of mass was “frozen” in time. Relative to the universe itself however, since time as yet to exist, it has been there no time at all. In this sense, the singularity was “waiting” to explode to an outside observer. But, since we live inside the universe, we cannot observe it from the outside. We therefore see the universe as we would relative to us: It began as an explosion, before which nothing existed. Relativity allows us to make this distinction within the laws of Physics, and therefore, the universe does not need any creator.

Most of your email is stating things that, as we show, are hardly news to us, then draws a conclusion that simply does not follow.

The assumption in your article is that before the creation of the universe, time was still linearized.

As shown, we do no such thing. One of our old articles even answers the points you raise:

A last desperate tactic by sceptics to avoid a theistic conclusion is to assert that creation in time is incoherent. Davies correctly points out that since time itself began with the beginning of the universe, it is meaningless to talk about what happened ‘before’ the universe began. But he claims that causes must precede their effects. So if nothing happened ‘before’ the universe began, then (according to Davies) it is meaningless to discuss the cause of the universe’s beginning.

But the philosopher (and New Testament scholar) William Lane Craig, in a useful critique of Davies, pointed out that Davies is deficient in philosophical knowledge. Philosophers have long discussed the notion of simultaneous causation. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) gave the example of a weight resting on a cushion simultaneously causing a depression in it. Craig says:

The first moment of time is the moment of God’s creative act and of creation’s simultaneous coming to be.
Time is just as malleable as space however, and therefore the universe does not require causation in order to begin. Cause and effect relationships only work in a linearized time frame (one that only moves in one direction, with a definite beginning).

As shown, simultaneous causation is an old concept.

Since time did not exist, the universe did not require a push to begin; in a sense, the universe existed in a perpetual state of ‘beginning’ before it was actually born. It’s a difficult concept to describe since the concept of time is so ingrained in us, but it does fit within the laws of general relativity. A creator is only necessary if time existed before the universe. Time did not exist before the universe. Therefore, a creator is unnecessary.

Because of the concept of simultaneous causation, your argument fails and there is no fallacy in our argument.


NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage TeamNGC 3949

Dear John

Thanks for your email.

You wrote (see responses interspersed):

My god, are you people gullible and narrow-minded!

We must be, indeed, since we:

  • fail to accept that an effect can exist without an adequate cause
  • find it incoherent that anyone could accept that nothing could have given rise to something
  • find it also difficult to comprehend how so many intelligent (some not-so-intelligent, of course) people could believe that all of the intricate biological design in the world, even down to the machine-like functioning of many molecular biological systems, could have come into being with no intelligence involved at all.
You think you know how the universe was created because you read it in some old books, which by the way do nothing but contradicting themselves

This is an example of the informal logical fallacy known as ‘elephant hurling’. You have not provided one example of a true contradiction. Further, if you believe that a book that truly involved per your description “nothing but contradicting [itself]” could cause tens of thousands of qualified scientists worldwide (at least), not to mention millions of highly-educated people overall, to claim adherence to its life-impacting propositions as truth, what does that say about your willingness to believe things that have a vanishingly small likelihood of being true?

and are based on superstition and false beliefs, fed to the ignorant and taken as the absolute truth.

Here is a great scientist, who still has the humility to say “we are not 100% sure, but we think this is what happened…” Even if he’s dead wrong, his opinion is infinitely more valuable than yours, since it is based on actual and observable FACTS, …

This implies that the people in this organisation, for instance, are not interested in how the Bible’s propositional truths, which rest strongly on its claims about history, interact with the facts of the real world. Or that these facts somehow contradict it. Maybe it’s time you did some perusing of the >8,000 articles on our site, perhaps beginning at the Q and A section. This will hopefully be particularly helpful to you, as it is nicely topically organised. So it does not require an Einsteinian mental capacity to work through.

… not some dream that a man allegedly had in some cave!

I’m not sure how this relates to the Bible, since its own claims about itself and its source of information/origin never mention anything even remotely resembling that description.

You really think the world is 6000 years old? Come on, grow up!

If the Bible’s other claims about reality and history are so strongly concordant with facts and reason, perhaps one should closely enquire into the facts that are relevant to its chronological claims. Those who have done this, rather than reacting emotively, or using claims based on an appeal to authority, or the authority of ‘numbers of adherents’, have more than once changed their mind.

Given its potential importance in the eternal perspective, and its impact on society, I would have thought that even if it were found to be incorrect, this was a topic that deserved a more mature approach than has been demonstrated in your comments.

Sincerely,

Carl W.

Helpful Resources

Does God exist?
by Drs Don Batten, Jonathan Sarfati
US $0.75
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The Greatest Hoax on Earth?
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $16.00
Soft Cover