Does the Universe Need God? (RJS)

Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology has an article Does the Universe Need God? in The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity edited by J. B. Stump and Alan Padgett. Sean Carroll’s article has also received a bit of press lately. I was sent links to an article by Natalie Wolchover by two different readers: Will Science Someday Rule Out the Possibility of God? (HT MB),  also published on Huffington Post (HT R).

Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science.

Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there’s good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.

Both of those who brought the article to my attention thought it would be worth discussion here – and I agree.

What is your response to Carroll’s argument?

Can science arrive at an explanation that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever?

I have the book – so have looked at Carroll’s original article as well as at Wolchover’s summary. Sean Carroll doesn’t make quite the claim in his article that Wolchover’s introduction suggests. He is more reserved in his conclusions. Science cannot prove that God does not exist (leaving no grounds for God whatsoever) – but it can, Carroll suggests, make the hypothesis unnecessary and unwieldy.

Carroll’s article begins:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In many religious traditions, one of the standard roles of the deity has been to create the universe. The first line of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, is a plain statement of this role. Much has happened, both in our understanding of the universe and in the development of theology, since that line was first written. It is worth examining what those developments imply for the relationship between God and cosmology.

In some ways of thinking about God there’s no relationship at all; a conception of divinity that is sufficiently ineffable and transcendent  may be completely separate from the workings of the physical world. For the purposes of this chapter, however, we will limit ourselves to versions of God that play some role in explaining the world we see. In addition to the role of creator, God may also be invoked as that which sustains the world and allows it to exist, or more practically as an explanation for some specific contingent properties of the universe we observe. (p. 183)

The question he chooses to address has to do specifically with explanations for the universe in which we live. Can science, through the development of a self-contained explanation of the universe undermine the reasons for believing in God?  He turns this around and asks it in another form as well. Do we already know enough to conclude that God definitely helps us explain the universe we see, in ways that a non-theistic approach can never hope to match?

God as Theory

After running through various aspects of cosmology and their relationship to roles for God (the universe we know, theories of creation, fine-tuning, the multiverse, and accounting for the world) he turns specifically to the question of God as theory, something akin to a scientific theory. He uses thought experiments to try to flesh it out…

Consider a hypothetical world in which science had developed to something like its current state of progress but nobody had yet thought of God. Would anyone be likely to propose the existence of a God?

The God hypothesis adds a whole new metaphysical category to the observable world. It cannot be disproved, but is there any real reason for the hypothesis? Isn’t the purely naturalistic explanation to be preferred on grounds of simplicity?

God is not described in equations, as are other fundamental theories of fundamental physics. Consequently it is difficult to or impossible to make predictions. Instead one looks at what has already been discovered, and agrees that is the way that God would have done it. Theistic evolutionists argue that God uses natural selection to develop life on earth; but religious thinkers before Darwin were unable to predict that such a mechanism would be God’s preferred choice. (p. 195)

Likewise the God hypothesis doesn’t explain the elementary particles or their range of masses. How does God lead us to the discovery of the Planck scale?

Over the past 500 years, the progress of science has worked to strip away God’s roles in the world. He isn’t needed to keep things moving, or to develop the complexity of living creatures, or to account for the existence of the universe.  … If and when cosmologists develop a successful understanding of the origin of the universe, we will be left with a picture in which there is no place for God to act – if he does … it is only in ways that are unnecessary and imperceptible. … Two thousand years ago, it was perfectly reasonable to invoke God as an explanation for natural phenomena; now, we can do much better. (p. 196)

Is God an explanation – like quantum theory or evolution? A primary theme running through Carroll’s argument is that the major reason and role for God is explanatory. We believe in God because otherwise we have no explanation for the world we see. And, like any good scientific theory, the God hypothesis should be both explanatory and predictive. Carroll sees the inability to deduce evolution from the God hypothesis as a strike against belief in God.

I think the biggest hole in Carroll’s argument is his understanding of God as explanation for “natural” phenomena. God is the creator, he sustains creation, but he is not the scientific explanation for creation. The universe needs God. But the universe doesn’t need God in the way Carroll suggests – to fill an otherwise unfillable gap in our explanation of the universe.  It isn’t a matter of either scientific explanations or God. The evidence for God is personal – in relationship with his creation. This doesn’t satisfy the criteria for a scientific theory – but I don’t think it was ever intended to satisfy such a criterion.

I could expand on this – but perhaps it would be better to stop here and open this up for comment. I posed a couple of questions above, and can pose a few more here to help guide a conversation.

What kind of God is revealed in scripture?

Is Carroll’s view consistent with the God described in scripture?

What is the evidence and reason for belief in God?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • phil_style

    What kind of God is revealed in scripture?

    I think we need to be honest and say that, yes, often in the Bible (job is a classic example) god is invoked as a very real mover of the physical world, and in a way that ascribes the causes of those movements to his action.

    That’s not so say, however, that other parts of the text provide us with room to manoeuvre with respect to divine action as explanatory of psychical phenomena.

  • phil_style

    Hmm, this is an interesting obversation one looks at what has already been discovered, and agrees that is the way that God would have done it. Theistic evolutionists argue that God uses natural selection to develop life on earth; but religious thinkers before Darwin were unable to predict that such a mechanism would be God’s preferred choice.

    At first read, I considered this pretty damning, a strong argument for the uselessness of theology/God with respect to understanding the natural world.
    But, at a historical level, it can be said that theology has in fact helped the development of science (at certain times, and in certain fields). The theological positions that certain scholars took would drive their interest in describing the natural world on its own terms – that is, without reference to the supernatural as a direct cause of phenomena. The theological assumption that the motion of the planets was fixed and operated according to a predictable pattern contributed towards astronomic discovery. So when it was found that the planets do move under their “own steam”, were the theologians shocked? No.

  • Norman

    I have to admit this article raised my blood pressure up. The underlying premise that science has already divulged that there is no need for God is so arrogant and thoughtless that it’s simply stupid. There are so many logical fallacies in this idea that it’s laughable.

    IMO here is the rub found in this statement: “Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there’s good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.”

    If one follows the logical conclusion then it means that humans will acquire not only understanding of the universe but would by inference be able to control the Universe because we know everything there is about it. This means we are God. We could create another universe and tweak it the way we want to. In other words the premise has never been thought through completely and rationally.

    It’s one thing to understand some of the workings of the universe and physical reality but that only scratches the surface of the issues at hand. This is a very amateurish premise IMO.

  • Rick

    There is a difference in explaining how the universe works, and explaining God and His role. Carroll seems to want to equate the 2, but as you pointed out RJS, Scripture does not seem to put much into the “how”, other than seeing God as Sovereign over His creation.

    As Phil pointed out in #2, theologians are not really “shocked”.

    One wonders if Carroll really understands theology, or is responding to just a small segment of it.

  • RJS

    Rick,

    I think this is a very important point. God is not a theory to explain the Universe, to be tested against other scientific theories.

    Some of the theology Carroll responds to is common in the church. I think that the Intelligent Design movement is rooted in the same misconception for example.

    So my position on this … Science cannot disprove God because God is not the answer to scientific questions to be put in opposition to material answers about mechanism. God is an answer to transcendent questions about creation and is creator. If there is a God, material explanations provide insight and understanding of his creation. If there is no God, material explanations (ultimately purposeless) provide the complete explanation.

    We should not expect a gap in material explanations requiring insertion of the God hypothesis. The gap is in relationship to his creatures, not in cosmology, chemistry, or biology. The absence of a gap is not evidence against the existence of God.

  • Tim

    I think that it could conceivably be possible, depending on how far science advances and what sorts of answers it finds, for the “God Hypothesis” to be ruled out as unnecessary and unwieldy.

    However, that day has not yet arrived. And depending on the answers we find, it may never arrive. There is just a lot about the universe that we don’t know.

    For instance, while we know quite a bit about naturalistic processes that lead to the formation of the cosmos and biological life on this planet, we don’t know much about what makes consciousness possible, nor do we know much about what makes up our aesthetic experiences that often mean so very much to us and lead, for many, to a perception of a transcendent God.

    Is science on track to answering these questions in purely naturalistic terms? It seems premature from my end to suggest that it is.

  • David

    Here is an interesting article titled ‘Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?’

    http://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/does-quantum-physics-make-it-easier-believe-god

  • Joey Elliott

    RJS,

    I specifically appreciate your comment in #5. Very well said.

    Perhaps the next topic can be Does God “need” the universe? Answer: no.

    Discuss.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The problem here, as other also note, is the idea that the existence of a deity is (primarily) needed for explanatory purposes. But that makes God into a stopgap, a God-of-the-gaps.

    The evolution of religion is a complex study – I’m currently working my way through “The Role of Religion in Human Evolution” by Robert Bellah (Would like to hear your review on this one!). It would seem that Carroll’s views, given the evidence, is a supremely simplistic understanding of the “God hypothesis”, given what we know of our own past.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

    Four words: Alvin Plantinga’s new book.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Jon G

    I, like Norman, must admit that the article under question gets my blood boiling. It argues for a view of Truth that is so one-dimensional. It assumes that all that can be known must be known scientifically (nevermind that that statement itself is self-defeating). It is really just Scientism.

    The way I view it, Truth has How, What, When, Where, Who, and Why questions that can be answered (there may be others, I don’t know!) and Science is not capable of answering all of them. So why must we limit ourselves?

    The old example is what explanation do we have for the creation of the Ford Model T? Science would tell us about the factory, engineering schemes, and raw materials but History would tell us that Henry Ford’s desire to build it is the explanation. Two different answers to the same question. Two different fields of study having their say. And there’s more Truth to be told. And thier all right! To make a scientific claim about a philosophical reality is to commit a category error, IMO and it really is a ignorant mistake.

    And to assume Science can understand all is to disregard the inherent limitations of Science. Don’t get me wrong…I am a believer in Science. But it doesn’t tell us everything…and thus, can’t make a claim on an metaphysical subject like God.

  • Nathan

    It seems to me that if we read Nyssa and Eckhart carefully, and some of the ways Tillich restates them, it wouldnt be so difficult for us to navigate the God question in relation to the theoretical mechanics of the universe. Science, for me, is a means toward a doxological posture of wonder and awe.

    Even when there are supposedly purely biological arguments for our spiritual experiences, I just see it as part of a constellation of discourses that support a physicalist theological anthropology to which I ascribe.

    I saw on tv a show that explored the idea of infinite expansion and the theory of multi-verse. This didn’t create dissonances for my faith, but expanded my appreciation for the infinite and extravagant depth of creativity expressed by the Creator. because I see God as Ground, source and Being, through a Trinitarian and Incarnational matrix, the explorations of science are, to me, a deeply spiritual (in the deepest sense of the word) quest. And even if a majority of the questers are skeptical or hostile, I see a deep yearning and longing “to know” and “understand” as natural posture of creatures made in the image of the Trinity who eternally, mutually and reciprocally “yearns” “knows” and “experiences” itself and its creation.

    Just my nickel.

    Love these questions and conversations.

  • http://prodigalthought.net Scott

    At this point, I cannot see science ever alleviating us from the mystery of faith. I mean, if one wants to approach things from a modernist, post-Enlightenment perspective where we can actually attain objectivity and empirical evidence for all things, then someone can put their hope in science to do so. But I think it is a shakeable foundation. And I’m one who doesn’t think science is all that bad. I suppose computers can all be explained of the details of how it works. Still doesn’t negate the reality that someone has put a computer into play. Just my simple, non-scientific musings. :)

  • Patrick

    Why would any human assume the universe either created itself( unless they are pantheists) or that it accidentally happened when no one would claim a paper bag created itself or accidentally happened?

    The very thought is so far outside of human reason. I think lots of folks who propose this are pantheists and since their cultural paradigm is monotheism and they are at war with it, they tend to see themselves as atheists when truthfully, they do worship creation, they just don’t grasp that worship/reverence as “religious” .

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Without reading the other responses….

    I view the OT god as a theory, and the evidence of Jesus substantiated the theory. I don’t believe the natural world can provide evidence.

    Sorry for the hit and run…….

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Thanks for posting this article RJS. Really good go us to contemplate difficult questions like this. It seems to me that Sean is simply to be commended for being honest about the implications of Christianity’s addiction to the idea that the primary way of relating to God is via “belief” in certain intellectual propositions that we believe define Him.

    I don’t know how to word this non-provocatively so I’m just going to toss it at the wall and hope it sticks.

    If we are thinking of God as the “answer” to ANY question other than “How then shall I live?” We are mistaking the truth about God for a lie.

    Our Life and Death of/in/through/by/as Christ is the only answer to any question that will survive the consuming fire.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    A thought experiment, particularly for Norman and Jon G and others who feel that man’s reach will never encompass the ability to create a universe.

    Perhaps you can conceive that men will, one day, be able to simulate an experience like the universe like was done in the movie the matrix. If you are willing to buy into that, and I am, I actually give it about a 50/50 shot that a simulated universe is what we are experiencing right now.

    For example, if you assume that we will have that ability one day, how can you know that the “one day” has not already come and gone and we are not living in that simulation right now?

    Further, and not to distract from my point above, I can easily see us making a universe some day. The current thinking, of which I am aware, shows that the universe is somewhat a zero sum game with the only difference between its existence and non-existence being a local optimum in the higgs field that gives a non-zero value. Creating a universe may not actually be all that hard in the end.

  • Joey Elliott

    DRT,

    Long time! How are you?

    Re: your comment in #17: you’re crazy. :)

  • Norman

    DRT,
    LOL, I wondered who was going to bite on that Star Trek optimistic view that we boomers were raised under. Let’s see: hominoids have been here about 200,00 years for the modern species and about 1,000,000 years for the more archaic version. The earth has been habitable for say roughly 500,000 million years out of it’s 4.5 billion years. So what we need to do is develop this knowledge before our ability to become God (and I mean that literally) because that is what you are heading toward. Before the Sun implodes or explodes or sends a big burst out toward us and zaps us. IF the sun doesn’t do us in then the other myriads of possibilities might but eventually can we stop the expansion and decay of the universe or if that premise is wrong the expansion and then eventual contraction and eventual death of the Universe. You have set a high bar for us who are just a speck in the eye of time. Yes the Universe produced us and our intelligence but we appear to just be along for the ride. Oh well what does N. T. Wright say? Perhaps we might be surprised by Hope. ;-)
    Love you brother
    Norman

  • http://www.createdtobelikegod.com theophilus.dr

    Perhaps the answer is on a different wavelength.

    The proof of God is in the transformed lives of those who express the genes of Christ. What is the purpose of the grace of God forgiving our sins by the work of Christ? So we can theologically compete with scientific natural discoveries on the origins of the universe? We know that the magnitude of God is so great that all human endeavor added up will never understand the mind of God or attain to His omnipotence. Then why do we play the same game as if that is the only game to be played? We have been freed from the bondage of sin so that we can be transformed into the image of Christ. We have our mental energies trying to figure out the God of the past, when the entire story is in the future – what are we becoming and who are we becoming like? So what if we can explain or recreate the past? Becoming like Jesus Christ is the future.

    If the world would see the transformed lives of Christians being renewed in the knowledge of the Creator (Col. 3:10), who were fulfilling their destiny of being created to be like God (Eph. 4:24), God would be proven in the power of lives and in the power of His united church. Then, secondarily, we can talk about some interesting sidelights, like Genesis 1-6 or randomness or the “God hypothesis.” Does the universe need God wouldn’t even be a question. God will always be a hypothesis until we prove He is real in the church. When humanism rules so much in the church that the church adopts the standards of the world, then the validity of God as an answer to anything will continue to be whittled away.

    Evidence of transformation by increasing phenotypic expression of the genes of Christ by the Holy Spirit at work in us is the only answer, and when the church provides that answer, the questions about God this and random that will be reframed. Until then, the questions will abound because the answer continues to languish.

    And if we say that we don’t know what transformation looks like, we still don’t understand. Like, if we knew what it looked like, would we try to duplicate it by human effort? The Holy Spirit can determine what it looks like.

  • Bev Mitchell

    DRT (17), (before reading your second, Norman or Theophilus)
    Neat thought experiment. You may be right. So often we focus on the wrong things. Along with an expanded view of God, we need an expanded view of creation. My response to RJS below elaborates.

    FWIW, my favorite thought experiment is a simple question. What would happen to our faith if little green women arrive from some distant star? Do we have a faith crisis, or do we make haste to find out what is going on, for surely God has been up to something we must have missed.

    RJS,

    You ask,

     “What kind of God is revealed in scripture?” 

    This is the essential question, isn’t it? Do we start with Plato? Do we begin with Augustine? Do we lean on Thomas Aquinas? Or, do we go to Scripture with no presuppositions? Is it possible to go to Scripture with no presuppositions? 

    Clearly, for many at least, the God revealed in Scripture is beautifully relational. It begins with his willingness to reveal himself to humanity. This is a spiritual event, a continuous spiritual event. According to the same Scripture, by revelation to prophets,  he asks things of humanity. He hopes, he pleads, he commands, he promises – and we often say no. When we do, he feels it deeply, but continues to reveal himself, to draw us. We are even allowed to argue with God, to remind him of his promises – and we sometimes win the argument (Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah). Sometime we simply obey, and he provides amazingly (Abraham and the near-sacrifice of Isaac). 

    Then this God becomes human, lives, dies and is resurrected. 

    We could go on, but the relational God is so evident in Scripture that only people wanting a completely intellectual view of God can miss him. And like all meaningful relationships, our relationship with God works both ways. This two-way relationship is the essential foundation of our experience of God. Ultimately, we do not think up or imagine God, nor do we explain him intellectually (in a foundational manner) – we experience God. His self-revelation is always available to us – sometimes we listen. When we really listen, God becomes real.

    This is the God that is necessary. Yes, he is creating and sustaining everything, but we do not need to prove this in any scientific way to experience him. When people say we do not need God, or that they don’t believe in God, the essential question is “What is the nature of this God in which you don’t believe? It’s quite possible that I don’t believe in that God either.

    I have never heard anyone who knows the self-revealing, self-sacrifical, loving and very relational God described above say that the God hypothesis is unnecessary.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    It is just as foolish for a scientist to claim they can know everything about the vast universe as it is for a Christian or religious person to claim they can know everything about God.

  • RJS

    Bev,

    Thanks. Exactly – I think the God revealed in scripture is relational. You put it beautifully.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Bev, I think we would heed Hawking’s advice and get ready for a REALLY big war.

    Norman, well, if you don’t want to play then I won’t. But I will offer one thing that you seem to miss, our entire experience would be part of the simulation. There is no earth, no record, no whatever you want. It is the simulation. Like I said, if you are not in interesting thinking then I can’t help you.

    Joey Elliott, I am fine. Actually feeling pretty well, though it seems some here would doubt my stability :) How are you?

    All I can do is point the horse to water, I cannot make him drink. It is definitely not an easy scenario to think through, but in the end it leads to some very interesting observations.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    CGC #22, I don’t think that most notable scientists think that they will know everything about the universe any time soon, or any time long. Heck, we don’t even know what gravity is about.

    But, FWIW, that is totally different than creating a universe. One of the fundamental ideas is that you don’t have to create all of the detail, you only need to set up the rules and initial conditions for the interactions to do the rest. For example: we do not need to know anything about the way a car works to start it. But if we turn the key then it starts. All we need to know is what the rules of the environment are, and then do something to change the equilibrium to make something happen.

    So too with the universe. The idea that people can understand how everything will work is a red herring. If I mutate a germ that continues on to wipe out humanity and all life I have no need to know how that will actually happen. If I dip my silver tea cup in a solution I have no need to know how it removes tarnish. If I throw a log on my fire I have no need to know how the combustion and self sustaining reaction occurs.

    I actually believe that the universe is very multi-dimensional and we will never figure it out. But that does not stop us from either simulating what we know, or creating a new one. The secret is in the initial conditions. To get concrete, if we can figure out how to start a non-zero higgs field expectation, and replicate enough so that we actually generate one, and have some sort of anisotropy that can be varied and experimented with, then there is no reason to think we cannot produce a universe not unlike our own.

    A good illustration of some of this is in the older theories of unified and grand unified theories. Those theories postulate that we can combine the fundamental forces into a common force/energy/I am unsure what you would call it. That does not make things more complex, it makes them more simple.

    You will see that there are a lot of creationists who misuse the second law of thermodynamics, where they feel, in their bones, that things are getting more complex and therefore believe that there must be something external acting on the universe. But that is simply a mistake.

    This is not intuitive stuff. If folks want to reject it before learning about it then more power to them. But it makes for a more realistic view of existence.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Last thought. I heard Richard Feynman speak once where he recollected a story that his father told him. If I remember it correctly, he had a wagon, and in that wagon was a ball near the front. When he pulled on the wagon he saw that the ball rushed toward the rear of the wagon and he could not figure out what was going on, so he asked his dad. His dad told him that we don’t know why it does that. His dad was obviously a very smart man because we still don’t know why it does that.

    You will find some people, including most scientists I fear, that would give some sort of answer about inertia and such. But the truth is if you start to peel that onion apart you will end up with the conclusion that we really don’t know why that happens.

    That is the way much of our reality is. We have models that predict the behavior, we have theories that tell us why it might happen, but we don’t know.

    This all leads to an idea. The idea is that we may well be able to predict that something will happen, but that does not mean we understand why it happens. So, to apply that to my simulation and universe creation paradigms, you will see that we can indeed simulate reality, model reality, perhaps even one day create reality, but the details are not really necessary.

    The compensating factor in the creation of the universe thought experiment (the modeling in a simulation should be obvious by now) is that we have experimentation on our side. We don’t need to plan it all out, all we have to do is develop a method to try the various combinations, given the basic model is mostly accurate.

  • J.B. Stump

    RJS, thank you for this posting. Your treatment of the Carroll article is much more fair and balanced than the Walchover article picked up on the various news services. Carroll’s article in the Companion is one of my favorites–not because I agree with him, but because it is a very clear exposition of his position. His tone is not all like that of the new atheists. He was a pleasure to work with (which, unfortunately, can’t be said of all the Christians who authored articles for the volume). I do wish that the news services might take the time to see the other articles on cosmology we included, but I suppose that wouldn’t be as sensational.

    Keep up the stimulating conversation!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    BTW, it is quite liberating being able to post as DRT as opposed to my real name :) I like being able to say what I really think.

  • StephL

    A relational God through Scripture, yes.

    But why be in relation with this God? It is not merely because He is superior. It is because He is infinite and because He is our source and our reason for being. Because He is Creator. We exist to know Him.

    What is the difference between being in relationship with God our Creator versus being in relationship with a superior extra-terrestrial race that intervened here and there to help us along in our development?

    My point is that it matters whom we are in relationship with, and we have always described our God as creator. This is foundational. If little green women from another planet showed up, that would rock our foundation … assuming they claimed responsibility for the human race’s existence.

    I don’t think we can get too far away from God as Creator and still have the same, specific God. It doesn’t have to look like Genesis 1, but it should look like the one through whom all things were created and in whom we live and move and have our being.

    I don’t want a relationship with an “older sibling” race. I want a relationship with a Father, Creator. That Creator is vulnerable to the idea that the idea of creator was made up when we didn’t understand how the world around us got here. Now that we understand more, I think it is only natural to wonder where the footprint of that Creator is. And it may be that his print is on us, his image is in us, and that He is invisible in the processes and the laws of the universe where we expected to find Him. We only know Him through our search for Him and our search for Him is the evidence for Him: a desire for Goodness, for Life.

    I don’t think the Bible is trying to explain how we got here. It is trying to explain our purpose though, our meaning, and the Creator God is the One who gives us meaning.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Folks, I do have to note, that the things I am saying are not really all that wild compared to belief in an invisible deity that controls and rules everything ;)

  • Norman

    DRT,

    DRT,
    I thoroughly love science fiction, especially the grand possibilities it allows us to formulate. I enjoy Scientific American, Nature, and various science magazines and stay abreast. I watch all the science shows and am not adverse to possibilities especially the theoretical. But I’m a seat of the pants pragmatic realist too. ;-)

    I’m hardly your quintessential science skeptic, but I don’t believe Aliens have visited earth and am not prone to conspiracy theories.

    And yes Bev I have considered little green women visiting us some day, but I’m concerned they will ask us to stick out our finger to see how fat and plump we are. They will likely start at McDonalds and find out who’s been ordering supersized meals so expect them to come to America first when the population has reached earths maximum sustaining number and begin their harvest. LOL

    Perhaps we are just a big cooking oven for some other species. The possibilities are endless. :)

    They made us smart but not too smart. :-0

  • http://www.twitter.com/aaronlage aaron

    DRT (#17)

    It is interesting to note that even if I did agree with you on the possibility, it is still impossible for humans to “create a universe” as you say. Only God is capable of “creatio ex nihilo”. The only thing man is capable of is creation from what already exists.

    In response to this blog post, I think the question that is most relevant to scientists is not, “Is there a God?”, rather “Can God be known?”

    If there is a God (which I believe there is), is it not possible that if He had the power to create an entire universe as grand as this (from literally nothing) – would He also be impossible for finite man to discover? Unless of course He has chosen to reveal Himself.

    If I were a watchmaker and created a watch that told time perfectly and was beautifully built – it is arguable that it is impossible for me to be known. Especially if separated by several hundred years and based solely on the watch itself and no other history. However, it can be known that someone intelligently made it who was cognizant of beauty, mechanics, metal working, time itself and many other aspects within creation. What we scientifically know of God is much like this watch – based solely on observation. And yet, unlike a finite watchmaker – our infinite God has chosen to reveal Himself outside of science.

    I would argue that we only know as much about God as He as chosen to reveal. Now, I believe He has revealed Himself in many different ways as Paul argues in Romans 1:20, however, even what He has chosen to reveal is still but a shadow of the fullness of Who He is.

  • Bev Mitchell

    All,

    Clark Pinnock (in “Most Moved Mover” pg 27)  gives a lovely poetic rendition of the kind of God many of us find necessary.

    “Let us not treat the attributes of God independently of the Bible but view the biblical metaphors as reality-depicting descriptions of the living God, whose very being is self-giving love. When we do so, God’s unity will not be viewed as a mathematical oneness but as a unity that includes diversity; God’s steadfastness will not be seen as a deadening immutability but constancy of character that includes change; God’s power will not be seen as raw omnipotence but as the sovereignty of love whose strength is revealed in weakness; and God’s omniscience will not be seen as know-it-all but as a wisdom which shapes the future in dialogue with creatures.”

    Pinnock’s footnote at the end of this fine piece of writing says this. “See what may be the finest section in Barth’s “Church Dogmatics”, ‘The Reality of God.’ Ii/I,  ch 6.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    aaron#32, FWIW, my argument is not based on creation ex nilio, rather creating an imbalance in the physical laws which lead to a creation of the universe.

    For instance, if you did not know what electricity was, and that is was running through all the wires in the house, you would think that we are animating objects ex nilio. So to with the universe, as I believe I said, the universe is likely close to a zero sum game, anti-matter and matter possibly had a slight imbalance due to a strangeness in the physical laws that still preserves the total, and that is why we see a matter universe instead of annihilation of everything due to cancelling out with anti-matter.

    If that physical law were changed, then we would cease to exist.

    So the question is not whether one can create a universe, but if one can create physical laws, which we have absolutely no idea how that could be done in any time. Do the physical laws exist without a universe? Or are they particular to a universe system? That is a big question in this.

  • Dale Dijkstra

    Carroll is a competent physicist, and his book is more reserved than the article.

    In the abstract, philosophical sense, there is no problem with an eternally existing physical universe or multiverse that gives rise to spacetime continua such as the one we inhabit and call the universe.

    Lawrence Krauss makes a different argument in his _A Universe from Nothing_ in which he simply dismisses the difference between nothing and physical vacuum. Nothing in the abstract is a bogeyman of theologians and philosophers, but his argument on physicalist grounds makes an end run around the *ex nihilo nihil fit* assertion so many of us as Christians agree with. Carroll doesn’t try to equivocate on the definition of nothing as Krauss does, so he isn’t so crass as Krauss (there ought to be a pun in there, but none is intended).

    That said it’s fair to say that both Carroll and Krauss assert the possibility of a physical universe without a creator, but both their approaches suffer from the same defect, and that is the problem of infinite regress (made necessary by the assertion of contingent physical entities as the ground of being.) They may scoff at William Lane Craig’s formulation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, but they can’t refute it absolutely – and Carroll makes no such attempt. God may not be necessary for the mere physical existence of the universe in the abstract. I think it can be argued that He is necessary for intelligibility and meaning, but those are questions outside of the purview of physics.

  • Morbert

    The problems with the “why” question are not limited to scientific answers. In any context, to receive an answer to a “why” question, you have to be willing to make some assumptions, otherwise you will be asking “why” forever. So when we ask why the universe exists, we atheists have to be willing to admit that the universe is not necesseraliy fathomable in its entirety by our human brains. The best we can do is peel off deeper and deeper layers and develop a more and more complete understanding. We might be able to understand the emergence of space, time, energy, momentume etc. in terms of a vacuum state evolving as described by quantum theory, but we will still be left of the question of why the state evolves the way it does, as opposed to some other conceivable, but unrealised way.

    This might sound unsatisfying to some theists, but it is the same reasoning they use when asked “Why does God exist?”


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