Atheists have no ultimate explanation

“Atheists have no ultimate explanation for how the universe is. They have to leave it as a random occurrence.”

There’s another common charge laid against the godless. And for naturalists, the accusation rings true. This need not, however, be a weakness.

The ultimate explanations of traditional theism do not work. They all come down to “God did it.” There is nothing intrinsically wrong with such a claim; if we had some independent idea of divine intentions or if we found a pattern of observations best explained by intelligent design, it could even help us make sense of the kind of universe we inhabit. But this is not how things stand. There are conservative ways of saying “God did it,” but they invariably make false claims. For example, assertions that God acted in history, or that living things show evidence for intelligent design rather than evolution. Sometimes “God did it” is a complete non-explanation, as with claims that the universe is fine-tuned for life and that this indicates intelligent design. It adds nothing new to our knowledge, saying only that a certain puzzle is solved by invoking The Solver Of All Puzzles. Then there are more liberal approaches, which usually translate as “God may well have done it, so we’ll take it as God did it.” These are annoyances, not arguments.

Still, naturalists also end our explanations somewhere, even if we dislike stopping at the Explainer Of All Things. Sometimes explanations stop when we say we have no idea, and don’t think anyone else has either. Sometimes we can speculate, or issue promissory notes about naturalistic solutions to a puzzle. Since the history of science has plenty of failed research programs as well as successes, some of these promissory notes will turn out to be less than what we first advertised. (Behaviorism comes to mind.) But then, all we can do is remind ourselves that we are fallible, and move on to the current best prospect for making cognitive progress, if there is any.

Sometimes we admit that things are confusing. The nature of dark energy, for example, is a head-scratcher. Knowing more about the universe—that there is such a thing as dark energy—has in some respects made cosmologists feel that they know less about the universe rather than more. If we include dark matter, we do not even know what over 95% of our universe is.

Sometimes we bite the bullet and say yes, it looks like certain things are indeed random. Modern physics is full of examples. And in such cases, we have good reasons (though never infallible reasons) to invoke randomness. I like to argue that today, a science-minded nonbeliever has to take randomness very seriously, making it a centerpiece of how they describe the world. Intelligent design proponents regularly accuse scientists of relying on a “chance of the gaps.” But there is a difference. Randomness is where pattern-finding comes to an end. A God of the gaps, in contrast, is an illegitimate extension of anthropomorphism. It brings in divine purposes without an adequate demonstration of a particular pattern that might be a signature of an intelligent agent.

There are lots of mysteries. Given our limitations, and especially how we will almost certainly always will be in a position of extrapolating from a finite amount of information, naturalists especially are aware of how we have to live with uncertainty. We are skeptical, however, of attempts to convert mystery into Mystery with a supernatural valence. Talk of capitalized Mystery, it seems, short-circuits what could be a sober acknowledgment of limitations. It claims knowledge, or perhaps a hint or a feeling of knowledge, where ignorance is a more accurate understanding of our situation.

But all this, as always, will be to the point only if we are concerned about achieving the most reliable broadly-scientific description of the world that we can. For most of us, an accurate understanding of nature is not a commanding interest—it is something that is of interest only so far as it serves our pursuit of other interests, often linked to biological and cultural reproduction.

In that case, perhaps the temptation to look for ultimate explanations and to be prematurely satisfied with “God did it” is not a mistake. After all, if religion for most people is about pragmatically coping with life, maybe short-circuiting certain kinds of inquiry is a good idea. After all, “God did it” is often associated with a kind of cosmic optimism, or at least a conviction of a humanly-meaningful purpose behind the seemingly mindless workings of the universe. If satisfaction with “God did it” prevents us from wasting time on questions with no immediate pragmatic significance in terms of the interests of everyday life, that makes it useful. If it is also associated with a kind of cosmic optimism, even better.

So, yes, the naturalistic variety of atheists do not have much in the way of ultimate explanations, at least not beyond those areas where we think we run up against fundamental physical randomness. And that, in a cognitive context, is a good thing.

But then perhaps the theistic accusation incorporates a legitimate worry. Perhaps someone stating that they are satisfied with “God did it” signals that they care about pragmatic questions rather than philosophical or scientific puzzles. They signal loyalty to a particular moral order. So maybe theists questioning nonbelievers about ultimate explanations, like so many other questions, translates into asking whether atheists can be trusted.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06394155516712665665 CyberKitten

    TE said: So maybe theists questioning nonbelievers about ultimate explanations, like so many other questions, translates into asking whether atheists can be trusted.

    “Trusted” how exactly?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03034292023591747601 PersonalFailure

    I don’t understand why I am supposed to have the answers for everything. No theist would accept me saying “well, if you can’t explain the exact mathematics of the event horizon of a black hole to me, then your god is entirely invalid”, so why am I supposed to have every answer.

    I’m not a physicist, I’m a legal secretary. Even if science did have a proven answer to “how did it all begin” I likely wouldn’t understand it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00203311711885538229 Daniel A. Wang

    “Atheists have no ultimate explanation”

    The truth of this claim depends on the proper interpretation.

    It is true that theists ultimately invoke God, an unexplained entity. Something unexplained exists, regardless. But it is also true that theism gives an explanation of the universe in a sense that atheism simply cannot. A contingent universe caused by a necessary being, a being which does not require an explanation.

    At any rate, my instinctive response to the statement is to question the notion that the universe does require an ultimate explanation. I am unconvinced that it does.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02168245408151208478 markbaland

    Atheist: The Big Bang created the Universe.

    Believer: And what or who caused the Big Bang?

    Atheist: I don’t know. Maybe it just happened on it’s own.

    Believer: Or maybe God did it?

    Atheist: Then who or what made God?

    Believer: Nothing, he just is, and always was.

    Atheist: Or maybe the Big Bang did it?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10778996187937943820 Taner Edis

    CyberKitten: “‘Trusted’ how exactly?

    Well, this is a bit of wild speculation on my part. I think there is something that needs explaining. I regularly encounter questions like “so who made all of this?” or “what caused the big bang?” Often these are the first questions I get. These are rhetorical; they are intended to claim that nonbelievers have no answer, and that “God did it” is a satisfying answer that ends the discussion. On further conversation, I usually get the impression that the questioner is either really not interested in, say, physics, or is too lazy to find out.

    So I don’t think that (most often) the charge about lacking ultimate explanations is rooted in a desire for explanations at all. Indeed, I suspect that what some believers are doing is to advertise their readiness to terminate inquiry. They can be trusted to be satisfied with the local morally-significant supernatural story. Nonbelievers, well, they can’t be trusted at this, and who knows what else?

    PersonalFailure: “I don’t understand why I am supposed to have the answers for everything.”

    That’s fair. Or should be fair.

    But I often run into the situation where it seems it is understood that theism supplies a ready-made answer for everything. “God did it.” And an obvious way to defend theism becomes probing the nonbelievers’ explanations and seeing where they come to an end. We can’t provide an answer for everything, no matter what the depth of our expertise. And when we reach the stage of “I don’t know” or “here’s some speculation” or “it looks random,” immediately “God did it” surfaces in the conversation as the perfectly satisfying ultimate explanation.

    Again, I suspect that in many cases, the theistic demand for an ultimate explanation is not about explanations at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16731690779682393927 Philip

    A revealing post by Taner Edis. Instead of just lumping philosophy in with irrational religion, a science-minded atheist hints, on moral grounds, that he prefers irrational religious anthropomorphism to philosophy’s rational search for ultimate answers. This is the extent to which scientific, as opposed to philosophical, atheists can be opposed to philosophy: they can go beyond scientism, to recommending an embrace of religion itself as long as in doing so they help put an end to philosophical (nonscientific but rational) inquiry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06394155516712665665 CyberKitten

    TE said: They can be trusted to be satisfied with the local morally-significant supernatural story. Nonbelievers, well, they can’t be trusted at this, and who knows what else?

    So… Atheists can’t be “trusted” to take God for an answer? That seems a strange way to introduce ‘trust’ into the issue.

    As to ultimate explanations…. if there *are* any I have no idea what they are. However, my lack of ‘explanation’ singularly fails to keep me awake at night. I also fail to understand what the fuss is about. There are many things we, as a species, don’t understand. There are many more things, as an individual, that I do not understand. Such is the way of things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Taner Edis wrote: “There are conservative ways of saying ‘God did it,’ but they invariably make false claims. For example, assertions that God acted in history, or that living things show evidence for intelligent design rather than evolution.”

    How do you know that God has not acted in history? If God exists then almost certainly S/He has acted in history, albeit in a way as not to restrict human freedom and responsibility. And intelligent design does not contradict evolution, so the latter distinction makes no sense. To see this take a much simpler physical phenomenon than the complexity of the species, say the falling of an apple. That the falling of an apple admits of a naturalistic description which does not require the God hypothesis does not imply that how an apple falls has not been designed by God, or indeed that the the apple’s lawful behavior is not directly and immediately caused by God. If theism is true then God is the author and sustainer of all natural order, including the biological order. So, far from theists invariably making false claims, I think it’s rather atheists who invariably beg the question.

    Taner Edis wrote: “‘God did it’ is a complete non-explanation, as with claims that the universe is fine-tuned for life and that this indicates intelligent design.”

    ”God did it” is indeed a non-explanation, but that’s not the structure of theistic explanations. Rather theodicy has the structure “God did it for this reason”, and that reason must comport with God’s personal perfection. So, far from being arbitrary, theistic explanations are restricted by our own intrinsic knowledge about personhood and personal perfection. In theism not everything goes, and that’s why there is so much in my view valid criticism (including from atheistic sources) of traditional theistic beliefs, such as the dogma of hell, the idea of command ethics, and so on. Now compare this state of affairs with naturalistic explanations. Naturalism’s thesis is that reality is at bottom mechanical (in the sense of amenable to a mathematical description). So in naturalism everything goes as long as the explanation is mechanical. Just have a look at the various mutually contradictory naturalistic interpretations of quantum mechanics, many of which are fantastic way beyond reasonableness in my judgment (e.g. the “quantum immortality” implication of the many worlds interpretation). You mention the apparent fine-tuning of the fundamental physical constants. So how do naturalist explain this highly unexpected fact about our physical environment? Why, if our universe is so fine-tuned for complexity, it must be the case that reality consists of a “multiverse”, i.e. of a gargantuan number of invisible parallel universes each with its own set of constants and perhaps physical laws, and our universe just happens to be one that has hit the complexity jackpot. In conclusion I submit that under any objective criterion theistic explanations are much more restricted than naturalistic explanations.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01150268020024006797 rgb

    Two common mistakes in language have led to a tremendous (and tremendously silly) misunderstanding.

    “God created the Universe”

    This is a simple oxymoron. The Universe is, by definition, everything that exists. If God exists, God is either part of or all of the Universe. After all, where was God when God created the Universe? When did he do this? If one asserts no where, at no time, then it seems fairly obvious that no one did it no place at no time.

    Even non-theists often get this one wrong, because it is simply so difficult for us to reason outside of our experience inside space-time. Usually what theists do is conceive of a meta-space and meta-time inhabited by God in which God can reside and act, but of course if that metaverse exists with its metaresident, it is all still just part of the Universe.

    A second extension of this simple observation comes from information theory. Using it, we can conclude that if God exists, God must be neither more nor less than the Universe itself as a theorem. We already see that God cannot be greater by virtue of the definition of Universe. Nor can he be lesser, or indeed separate in any way. One very fruitful way of viewing the Universe is as a set of information. Information in physics and philosophy both is either self-encoded — for example the coordinates of an electron — or symbolically encoded — for example a representation of those coordinates in something else — ink on paper, thoughts in brains, digital data in a computer.

    The information content of the Universe that we can see, at least, appears to be self-encoded, compact, and enormous. For God to be separate from the Universe (even the non-God part of the Universe) and omniscient, God would need to contain a symbolic representation of the complete state of the Universe, perfect in every detail. So perfect, in fact, that it would be obviously pointless to replicate the data, and quite impossible to encode the data in some other more complex way (which just makes the problem recursive, as then God is faced with knowing It’s own microstate and the perfectly redundant encoding of the microstate of a subset of the Universe in that state.

    This is clearly a pointless model and impossible model. Imagine trying to “know yourself” as a higher order encoding of the microstate of all of the parts you’re using to encode that higher order encoding and you immediately conclude that information theory simply doesn’t admit it except in the most trivial of senses.

    We can conclude, then, as a theorem that if God exists, God is the Universe. No other possibility fails to contradict the simple meanings of the term “God” or “Universe” (given the axioms of information theory and plausible belief).

    From this we can conclude that rational pantheistic deism, one consistent with the precise conceptualization of God as the complete self-sufficient set of information that is self-encoded as the Universe itself, is not contradicted immediately by simple logic, and that all supernatural theisms are a priori false!

    I’d count that as an anti-theistic explanation.

    rgb

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    rgb wrote: “ The Universe is, by definition, everything that exists.

    I would say that “reality” is by definition everything that exists. Philosophers like to use “world” to mean the same. “Universe” normally denotes the visible physical universe we live in. That’s why naturalists who speculate that there may be many other parallel universes coined a new word for it, namely “multiverse”. Now if one is a materialist one will believe that the universe (or alternatively the multiverse) holds everything that exists. But of course when discussing theism one must not assume materialism as given lest one beg the question.

    When theists say that “God created the universe” they basically mean that God created us and the visible universe around us. They don’t mean anything as absurd as that God created everything that exists including God. Of course not; as you say to suggest this would be tremendously silly. Theism may be wrong but is not trivially wrong; the latter is just another atheistic myth. (More precisely, according to theism God created everything that is contingent and which other contingent persons have not themselves created. To my mind, for example, God has therefore not created numbers because these exist necessarily. Indeed, just like several attributes of God, mathematical objects exist outside of time and space.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    Dianelos Georgoudis said…

    ‘”God did it” is indeed a non-explanation, but that’s not the structure of theistic explanations. Rather theodicy has the structure “God did it for this reason”, and that reason must comport with God’s personal perfection. So, far from being arbitrary, theistic explanations are restricted by our own intrinsic knowledge about personhood and personal perfection.’

    Its far-fetched to say theistic explanations are so restricted. Clearly, theistic explanations do not have to assume either perfection or personhood, they are both arbitrary assumptions here, and just as importantly, there is no non-arbitrary reason to begin with any such assumptions. Indeed, if the goal is to match theism with reality, the better starting point would arguably be an imperfect group of gods with different personalities since that leaves more room for making a better fit.

    Dianelos Georgoudis said…

    ‘In theism not everything goes, and that’s why there is so much in my view valid criticism (including from atheistic sources) of traditional theistic beliefs, such as the dogma of hell, the idea of command ethics, and so on. Now compare this state of affairs with naturalistic explanations. Naturalism’s thesis is that reality is at bottom mechanical (in the sense of amenable to a mathematical description). So in naturalism everything goes as long as the explanation is mechanical. Just have a look at the various mutually contradictory naturalistic interpretations of quantum mechanics, many of which are fantastic way beyond reasonableness in my judgment (e.g. the “quantum immortality” implication of the many worlds interpretation).’

    Just about no one asserts any one quantum interpretation as anything more than speculation. But at least its speculation about something we know is true, which is very different then theistic speculation. So you are comparing apples and oranges here.

    Dianelos Georgoudis said…

    ‘You mention the apparent fine-tuning of the fundamental physical constants. So how do naturalist explain this highly unexpected fact about our physical environment? Why, if our universe is so fine-tuned for complexity, it must be the case that reality consists of a “multiverse”, i.e. of a gargantuan number of invisible parallel universes each with its own set of constants and perhaps physical laws, and our universe just happens to be one that has hit the complexity jackpot. In conclusion I submit that under any objective criterion theistic explanations are much more restricted than naturalistic explanations.’

    The fine-tuning argument is based on taking one variable and changing it while leaving the other variables constant. If you vary multiple variables simultaneously it turns out that there appear to be many combinations of the variables that are consistent with having universes that could sustain life. Also, we don’t know for sure that the variables are all independent, if some of the variables are dependent then that reduces the overall number of possibilities. Also, multi-verse appears to be a concept that derives from inflation, so if the evidence supports inflation, and so far it does, that implies a multi-verse is a reasonable conjecture. OK, I am not a scientist, but this is my understanding.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Explicit Atheist wrote: “ Clearly, theistic explanations do not have to assume either perfection or personhood, they are both arbitrary assumptions here, and just as importantly, there is no non-arbitrary reason to begin with any such assumptions.

    On the contrary theistic explanations must assume that, because the theistic hypothesis is precisely that reality is based on the presence of a person who is perfect in all respects. Theism’s claim to reasonableness is based on the argument that this hypothesis works better than the naturalistic hypothesis, and specifically that the theistic hypothesis explains better the whole of our experience of life. You can disagree with the theistic claim, but not with the theistic hypothesis, which is simply a given.

    Explicit Atheist wrote: “ Just about no one asserts any one quantum interpretation as anything more than speculation.

    I invite you to read David Deutsch’s “The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes and Its Implications”. You’ll find that this well-known scientist not only believes that the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is the right one, but that given quantum mechanics it is actually an obvious fact.

    What is really a fact is that under the impact of scientific discoveries since the beginning of the 20th century the number of mutually contradictory naturalistic descriptions of reality is quickly growing and that they are becoming more and more fantastic. Not really what one would expect if naturalism were true. And I would argue that the fundamental disagreements between naturalists are much deeper than the respective disagreements between theists. So much for naturalism being objective.

    Explicit Atheist wrote: “ But at least its speculation about something we know is true, which is very different then theistic speculation.

    You are not saying what you think you know is true, but my guess is that you are begging the question here.

    Explicit Atheist wrote: “ The fine-tuning argument is based on taking one variable and changing it while leaving the other variables constant. If you vary multiple variables simultaneously it turns out that there appear to be many combinations of the variables that are consistent with having universes that could sustain life.

    That’s not my understanding of the problem. What is certain is that the apparent fine-tuning of the fundamental constants represents a serious problem for naturalism as evidenced by the fact that naturalists, in order to deal with it, did not shy away from claiming the existence of many invisible entities for which no objective evidence exists. Which given their traditional criticisms of theism is rather ironic I must say.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    Dianelos Georgoudis, I can’t comment on David Deutsch’s book, I haven’t read his book or even reviews of his books, but otherwise your assertions about theism and naturalism conflict with my understandings. They sound more like caricatures than like reality. I stand by everything I said and I disagree with your contrary arguments. Your assertion that naturalistic explanations are not much stronger and more consistently held otherwise based on the lack of consensus regarding interpretative speculations of quantum mechanics is very weak. What we know about the world under the heading of quantum mechanics is much more than what we know from all of the theologians writings in all of history. We know quantum mechanics is true because it is observed, it is empirically evidenced, so I did not “beg the question” when I said about interpretations of quantum mechanics “at least its speculation about something we know is true, which is very different then theistic speculation”. And I stand by my statement that the fine-tuning argument is faulty because “If you vary multiple variables simultaneously it turns out that there appear to be many combinations of the variables that are consistent with having universes that could sustain life.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Explicit Atheist wrote: “What we know about the world under the heading of quantum mechanics is much more than what we know from all of the theologians writings in all of history.

    True, for theologians do not normally study quantum mechanics or work in this field. (There are exceptions, for example John Polkinghorne who after being a professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge university for many years became a priest and eminent theologian.)

    But I am afraid you are committing one of the common atheistic fallacies, namely to conflate metaphysical naturalism with the natural sciences, and thinking therefore that the opposition is between science and religion. In fact science has nothing to do with naturalism. To see this consider the following: All scientific knowledge is based on a set of data, namely our objective observations of physical phenomena. We all agree that these data are produced by the objective reality out there, but the question at hand is what kind of reality is that. One can think of many realities that would produce exactly the same data that science uses, for example “scientific realism” (i.e. the idea that scientific models fully describe objective reality), “dualistic theism” (i.e. the idea that God has created both us and an objectively existing physical universe to inhabit), “idealistic theism” (i.e. the idea that God directly produces all our experiences including physical phenomena), “Descartes’s Demon” (i.e. the idea that it is not God but rather an evil demon who produces all our experiences in order to deceive us into forming false beliefs), “the computer simulation hypothesis (i.e. the idea that we all live within a computer simulation set up in some unseen reality of which we know nothing), and so on. Now these various realities can produce all the data that science uses[1], therefore science cannot be used to differentiate between them. But not all of these worldviews can be true; at most one of them is. In order to find out which one is true (or at least which one it is more reasonable to believe is true) one must go beyond science and use metaphysical thinking. So science can help us decide which worldviews about reality can *possibly* be true, but as there are many that are possibly true science cannot help us decide which one of the is actually true.

    In short science is about describing physical phenomena and mathematically modeling them. Metaphysics is about describing how the objective reality that produces these phenomena (as well as the rest of our experience of life) is. Therefore to conflate science and a particular metaphysical theory (namely scientific naturalism) is a gross category mistake, and one that sadly many atheists commit.

    [1] Actually there is a proof that scientific naturalism cannot possibly produce the data that science uses, in other words a strong argument can be made that scientific data falsify scientific naturalism, but for the sake of discussion I here assume that scientific naturalism is still in the competition. Incidentally scientific naturalism is what you get when you reify scientific models. So, for example, while science says that a drop of water can be *modeled* as consisting of a large number of H2O molecules scientific naturalism says that a drop of water *is* a large number of H2O molecules.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    God is not a person. God is an entity. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Jesus could not be all knowing because he (God) only allowed himself to have the knowledge needed while in the earthly realm. What people know of us is only what we allow them to know. Our perception exists, but it is only known to others through our linited capacity to communicate to others in a manner in which they can properly understand its existance. God is an intangible entity that can only be known by way of his communication. Since people were not understanding his true intent, he came into the earthly realm via a virgin human female. He placed his DNA in one of her eggs. He allowed the human race the chance to choose a greater way of life, but they refused and killed the human messenger body, but they didn’t kill the God entity. Picture a scientist who is attempting to communicate with ants. He trys many methods to help the ants understand his desires for them. He uses food, water, and other things to entice them to move in certain directions. However, his great miracles are misunderstood. Finally, he dicovers a method that will allow him to become an ant. He transforms himself into an ant. He begins teaching the ants great wisdom. Even so, the Queen doesn’t like what he is doing. She has him stung and ripped apart by the other ants. This how I see Jesus. That is, except the scientist was just a person who died and could not ascend back to his first state of being. I know my perception and/or thoughts exist, but until I allow them to be heard or read, no one believes that they exist. My thoughts are a fact, but they have no form and cannot be sensed by anyone other than me. So, if someone believes that my thoughts don’t exist merely because I have spoken, is that person correct? Our existance is based solely upon the thoughts of God. If he decides to stop the thought of us, we will no longer exist. Our existance is much like the existance of our on thoughts. If we have a thought that we like, then we speak it. Because of that, it becomes a reality to others and to ourselves. If we support that thought, it may become known as a fact. God wants all of us to become a fact. He supports us. However, since we have the right to deny him, he can erase his writtings or change his mind. Then, any person (thought) that is not what God wills, will no longer exist. A thought has no mass or weight and it doesn’t take up any space. It is neither matter or antimatter. It cannot be measured. Yet, we all know that thoughts exist. How can any type of science prove the existance of a thought. Additionally, what is a thought other than nothing until it is spoken or written? How we perceive the world may not be that which others perceive. When I see a color that I am taught is red, but the color I see is not a color in the normal spectrum of perception, how does anyone know what color I see? They assume it is the same red that they see, but I don’t see red at all. I see an unnamed color. The red color that others see doesn’t exist in my perception. Likewise, I believe others see what I see. So, you see, we don’t really know what exists in the minds of others. If god doesn’t exist in your mind, then he doesn’t exist. However, you do exist in his mind, and he will not like your denial. Think about it and allow your perception to be known. Otherwise, I will not believe that you can have a thought or perception.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08367983630108000071 odrareg

    The ultimate explanation is not into the how but into the who or what.

    When we ask the question how, like how does this thing come about, we are talking about finding the causes of a thing to bring the thing into existence, among causes we already know to exist.

    For example, how does a baby come about?

    Answer, because its parents a man and a woman contribute together to give birth to the baby.

    Man and woman are known causes of the baby, which answer the question how.

    That is in the domain of science.

    Now, when we ask for the ultimate explanation of the observable universe which according to astrophysicists has a beginning in the Big Bang, the question cannot anymore be in the realm of how, how being understood as the search for the causes of the Big Bang among causes we already know to exist — but we don't know of any causes among the causes we know to exist that can give rise to the Big Bang.

    Take notice that astrophysics and Big Bang are in the realm of science.

    So we don't have an explanation in science, specifically in astrophysics for the origin of the Big Bang.

    The explanation now of the Big Bang must be sought in another level of inquiry, namely, in philosophy.

    In philosophy we still have to ask the question, no longer as to the how or in the realm of science (namely among the causes we already know to exist), but as to the who or what brings about the Big Bang.

    We arrive at the who or what brings about the Big Bang in philosophy, that is by reasoning, in this way:

    1. Since in the science of astrophysics the observable universe where man resides in has a beginning in the Big Bang,

    2. And since everything with a beginning must have its origin outside itself (because if it has its origin in itself, then it does not have any beginning, it is always existing),

    3. Wherefore the observable universe with a beginning must have its origin outside itself, in something outside itself that has the power to bring the Big Bang into its beginning, hence the existence of the observable universe.

    4. That something outside the Big Bang is therefore given the identity of cause of the Big Bang, and hence cause of the observable universe.

    5. That something is called by theists as God, defined in concept as the necessary being creator of everything with a beginning.

    Summing up:

    Science does not have an ultimate explanation for the origin of the observable universe that has a beginning in the Big Bang, because science has no knowledge of any causes in science among the causes scientists today know to exist in science, that can answer the question how.

    But philosophy has the answer to the who, namely, the cause of the Big Bang, hence the observable universe.

    So, scientists need not be atheists unless they are being un-philosophical or irrational.

    Anyway, when atheist scientists insist that they don't know the origin of the observable universe which has a beginning in the Big, they should add that they don't know the how.

    But they cannot and therefore should not rule out philosophy and philosophers, unless they choose to be unreasonable, or intellectually incoherent, and that is the essential mindset of atheists.

    In philosophy man can say that by reasoning he can and has come to the knowledge of God as the cause of the Big Bang which is the beginning of the observable universe; and therefore God is defined in concept as the necessary being creator of everything with a beginning.

    Yrger aka Odrareg

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