Feedback archiveFeedback 2012

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.


Carl W.

Helpful Resources

Does God exist?
by Drs Don Batten, Jonathan Sarfati
US $0.60
Soft cover
The Greatest Hoax on Earth?
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $15.00

Reader’s comments

john P.
Indeed as one person said,the idea of something coming from nothing is “a mad pagan fantasy dreamt by someone in a cave,” probably on “whoopee weed”! As the Bible states in Genesis, God created the universe and everything in it. Those denying this will find out how wrong they are, hopefully the Holy Spirit will get His Foot into the door of their hearts while they're still with us
Jared N.
@Norman W. — I loved your comment, especially this part, “The lengths supposedly intelligent people go to in order to explain away the Creator to whom they will have to answer, is quite impressive. Their religion, based on things they cannot see, cannot test, and cannot prove, is one of pure faith.” Brilliant! I hope you don’t mind, I’ve used it as a quote on my Facebook! :)
Brian P.
I am not a philosopher and I do not know the philosophical arguments on ‘time’ and its ramifications concerning the beginning of the universe, but I am a scientist. I fail to understand how anyone can think that the universe sponatneously came into existance from nothing and then stopped exploding into more things. If nothing became something first, then why is this not happening still? Should we not be seeing things appearing chaotically around us all the time? When did this stop happening and why? It is preposterous to think the order of this world could come from anything other than an orderly creation as described in the Bible. It is by this understanding we can know that the creation has been completed and that everything else we veiw can be held up to the standards set down by the creator.
Ryan F.
“not some dream that a man allegedly had in some cave!” That’s the quote that’s got everyone talking; I guess mainly because the guy is just emoting and at this point isn’t saying what he’s saying because he believes it. How about some dream a man had on a ship called the HMS Beagle?
Also, I think one of the biggest problems evolutionists have in this area is that when visualizing the origin of the universe, they have a hard time starting with a totally blank slate. They like to say that ‘nothing’ (which is what you must start with if you deny any initial intelligence) can do certain things or has specific properties. Even though it is true that ‘before’ this universe, the laws of physics didn’t exist any more than the rest of this universe, nothing has to be the starting point, so no one can say that it can do anything, because that would make it something. The only logical way to fix this problem is to picture something else as the all-encompassing meaning and origin of everything. If God himself is the one eternal thing that existed ‘before’ the universe and the laws of physics, and can therefore do anything, seeing as ‘before’ creation I suppose He was the universe, He is the only logical explanation for the existence of a universe bound by time.
Norman W.
I actually feel sorry for the poor souls who use the argument that we believers in Creation can’t apply the visible evidence to our beliefs. They are smart enough to envision how things might have happened, but not smart enough to recognize they cannot test or view those processes, because they would be in the past. Yet they somehow think that, because we cannot test our beliefs (hypotheses) they cannot be valid. They have no existing singularities that are exploding (contrary to all physical laws) and creating new systems. They have no historical record of time starting or stopping. Finally, since the creator of all things, including time as we know it, can see the beginning and the end at the same time, it is clear He exists outside of time, which would be appropriate, since He created Time. The lengths supposedly intelligent people go to in order to explain away the Creator to whom they will have to answer, is quite impressive. Their religion, based on things they cannot see, cannot test, and cannot prove, is one of pure faith. At least we have a Creator who cared enough for us to communicate the truth, provide a means of redemption and salvation, and give us a “peace that passes understanding,” to see us through the nonsense "scientists" try to pass off as enlightened truth.
Randall H.
It is no small contradiction to state (correctly) Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit (nothing comes from nothing) and then teach that the universe came from nothing. It’s sad to see that this type of ‘science’ has become the norm.
P. G.
J.M.'s comments once again demonstrate the sad state of science in the world today.

J.M. states, “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.” Huh? Something that already exists can't be the explanation for the beginning, because the question about a beginning means "how did we get something from nothing?” not “how did we get something from something else?” Stopped time or the absence of time doesn't resolve the issue.

To say that something is “theoretically possible” is rather meaningless without stating what the theory or the premises of the theory are. Is J.M. saying that the big bang theory is theoretically possible?? What would that even mean? A theory is theoretically possible? If he is saying the big bang theory is possibly a true explanation for how all mass/energy came into existence, he utterly fails to persuade, let along substantiate such an assertion.

If J.M. is attempting to communicate in scientific language, he misses the mark.

When people start preaching that they know of a zero volume that has infinite mass, they are not in the realm of science but in the realm of religion. That some mathematics is used by science, doesn't mean that all mathematics describes physical law. Mathematics too often becomes the cloak of secular priests who espouse unobserved and un-observable, all powerful, infinite causes. A language of (in this case false) religion without any historical or scientific basis.

I hope J.M. comes to a realization that the big bang is not science but religion, and begins to seek God who created all things.
Blake B.
“not some dream that a man allegedly had in some cave!”
That’s the Koran, not the Bible.
Grant D.
I ran into a person who was saying that if time exist than God cannot have created time since for Him to create matter He needed time. I think the definition of time is a slippery term. I don't really believe in time because how would we know where there is time and where there isn’t?

I’m curious of how you guys would respond the the critics who say that in order for God to create us, He needed time.
Jonathan Sarfati
Check out this recent feedback (linked in the related articles): Time, eternity, and the creation of the universe, and note also the response to Grant D., United States, 30 December 2012.
Curtis C.
Just wanted to add, in response to this line: “A creator is only necessary if time existed before the universe”—this assumes the creator is a finite (basically created or evolved) being within time (like us). But God is infinite and beyond time. He does not need time to create. And this is exactly what (rather who) is needed to explain the existence of both time and the universe. :)

I find it helps to visualize God as a vast array of arrows pointing inward towards one point, in terms of causality—that point being the Beginning—and time as a single arrow pointing linearly forward from that point. This is why he takes the name of “I Am” in the Bible and many similar statements to tell us that he is not just a temporal (within-time) being like us.
wayne T.
Reasoning in the original email is incredibly confusing … note. A creator is only necessary if time existed before the universe. He writes further that time did not exist before the universe, therefore a creator is not necessary? Should not the logical deduction conclude that because he finds himself currently existing in time, that this therefore proves the existence of a creator!

What this writer fails to understand that the creator that exists outside of time is in an eternal realm. I find it interesting that man has an inbuilt understanding of both time and eternity. If he were just a product of evolution, man could simply not relate to or comprehend eternal issues. I have not talked to any human being beyond the age of reasoning who could not easily relate to the concept of eternalness [even if they said that they did not believe in God].

There are two realms that man can easily relate to i.e. Time and Eternity or that which is outside of time, which is backed by Scripture in John 1;9 that refers to the True light which lighteth every man that comes into the world.

It must also be remembered that man was not only a creation that was bound by time, but a soul that was meant to exist forever, and that time is only a small part that fits into a very big eternal reality.

This writer also fails to understand that if time and things like the earth were in a sphere of pregnancy or as he suggests waiting to be born, nothing could progress without information being the criteria for its birth, growth and continuance, which by rational, fair and logical deduction requires an intelligence that is superior to time itself, and all the evidence suggests that superior intelligence as being a creator.

Marc K.
The inquirer wrote the universe began with “infinite mass and zero volume”.

Hmmm. Something’s infinitely massive yet takes up no volume? Can I perhaps be provided with a few more examples of similarly strange theoretical objects? What about, say, infinitely tall buildings that weigh nothing? Or how about an object that has no volume, no mass, as well as missing any other quality, but still, nevertheless, exists?

Science fiction writing can be, well, ahh, entertaining … sometimes.

michael S.
The problem with the Big Bang Godless scenario, is that even if you assume a Godless start, you also have to assume, and indeed reduce the universe to something that it has never been evidenced to be.

It is like saying that Jonathan Sarfati could have came from the soil because we find amino acids inside him, so he started out as an amino acid and increased in complexity.

It’s the same with the logic applied to the universe, every single type of evolution is assumed to be 100% true, even absurd evolution such as abiogenesis, that does not have a shred of evidence. But not only that, the universe is not showing an evolution, it is showing a completed orderly/complex system, so we also have to assume that these things never existed.

I don’t think evolutionist realize the magnitude of the assumptions. You have to invent a whole universe that never existed, a simplistic, orderles, un-complex one. A fake one, invoked in order to argue what you are trying to prove.

So for me, even if you could prove a false universe could come about by itself, it only then follows that you could get a false universe this way, not the real universe.
Errol B.
Something tells me J.M. and John T. are unable to recognize a ‘rescue hypothesis’ even if it bit them, in spite of the observations, not because of them. Only circular reasoning by using the old ‘How else could it have come into existence?’ makes them think they are being scientific, but of course any Christian child could answer that challenge, if only they were allowed.
Robert S.
That everything came from nothing by itself is a mad pagan fantasy, quite possibly dreamed up by somebody in a cave.
Al M.
Nothing begets nothing. Plain and simple. What property does nothing have that allows it to create? Well, it can’t have any properties, otherwise it wouldn’t be nothing. Even assigning a name to it is giving it too much, because there is nothing to name. Nothing can’t be observed, because it is the absence of existence.
So why, pray tell, does the atheist think it is acceptable, let alone possible that everything came from nothing?
Jesse M.
The guy was telling you to “grow up” for believing the world to be 6000 years old? I fail to see how that makes someone immature, especially when that date is based on God’s historical record (the Bible). The people who really need to “grow up” are the people who are well aware of the intricate design of this universe, yet continue to put their head in a fantasy world where such a universe could occur by accident, simply because they are too spiritually immature to admit their need for God and for repentance.
Jack C.
I never ceases to amaze me to see how anyone would prefer to believe something can be “created” out of nothing by nothing. It’s not even proper English let alone illogical. It would be more believable to see a car come into existence out of nothing by itself than to see the whole Universe come into existence out of nothing by itself. Of course neither is possible without a creator.

Article comments are only available for 14 days from publication.