“The answer to the ancient question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ would then be that ‘nothing’ is unstable.” ~ Nobel Laureate, Frank Wilczek
There are some real sadistic people at the United Church of God. They threw up a magazine announcing Santa Claus as fake (this is apparently a point of serious contention for them) that claims that god can be proven even without the bible (since the bible is such a powerful tool for that…). I’m starting to suspect this was entrapment, because now I’m trapped wading through a big mess of tired apologetics. Honestly, I probably should’ve seen that coming…
Their first reason was pretty lame. They went the genetics route with the “stuff’s pretty to look at therefore god” approach. Snore. But now I’m sucked into this. Damn you and your seductive graphics, United Church of God!
Maybe they just got off to a slow start. Let’s examine the next way to prove god without the bible.
Reason #2: Origin (the Cosmological Argument)
First sentence out of the gate:
If things have an origin, they first needed an originator.
Somewhere William Lane Craig just came.
This statement is 100% wrong. Subatomic events are observed to have no evident cause. Examples include an atom at an excited energy level dropping to a lower level and emitting a photon and the decay of a radioactive nucleus. In fact, the majority of an atom, the building blocks of matter, are a matter of virtual particles fluctuating in and out of existence without any apparent cause. These types of things are the whole reason we have acquired a very firm understanding of probabilistic causes using statistical distributions of possible outcomes.
The greatest question in philosophy is: Why does something exist instead of nothing?
Why is non-existence a more natural/probable state than existence?
Philosophers don’t really have an adequate answer.
Possible reactions to this:
1. I guess we don’t know then.
2. We don’t know? That means we do know!
One of those makes sense. The other one is the recourse of the logically handicapped.
But there is a principle in nature that points to the answer—everything with a beginning has a cause, and there are no known exceptions to this rule.
Forgetting for a moment that events at the subatomic level do not require a cause, what can we take from this even if I were to concede this point? Something caused the universe. Then what caused that? What caused the thing that caused that? If we keep pushing it back, we must either conclude that something began to exist for no apparent reason or that something simply always existed. Christians already believe something can either exist forever or pop into existence without cause because they believe that of god. So if things can be forever in existence or spontaneously come to be, why not just matter and the laws of physics? We already have those things, we know they exist, they produce order all by themselves, and the order we see in the universe is what we’d expect to see from such mindless forces. What need do we have of a god figure that conflicts with all that we know about the operation of the universe (like genetics)?
Moreover, everything that is caused to exist is brought about by something superior to itself. Therefore, something greater than the universe must have brought it into existence.
Wrong again, Cletus! “Greater” is a very nebulous term in this case. By greater do you mean larger? Obviously not since the Big Bang produced a damn bigger universe. Do you mean more complex? Again, this is clearly not the case. In this universe, things tend to move from disorder to order all by themselves. For instance, if you get a big enough cloud of hydrogen such that it produces enough gravity to pull itself together, you’ll eventually get a star that is incredibly more complex and ordered than the hydrogen cloud (see the Jeans instability) with no appeal to god being necessary. And who could argue that a simple cloud of hydrogen was “greater” than a star? This fact alone makes a first cause god less likely than matter and the laws of physics as a universal originator. Because things move from disorder to order in our universe, a highly developed intelligence at its beginning, before there was time for it to evolve, makes no sense. The beginning would’ve been chaotic, not ordered.
What’s more, to maintain lesser complexity in this universe often requires an input of energy. The best example comes from Victor Stenger, but is perceptible to all of us: ice. Solid ice is much more ordered than liquid water. However, in order to have liquid water you must continuously put energy into that system to maintain it, otherwise it will freeze into something more complex. In a universe without energy, only more highly ordered ice would exist. What this means is that a universe of natural and increasing order (in pockets) is what we would expect to see in a completely natural universe. A universe that was disordered would require the input of additional energy – that universe would be more indicative of a god than the one we see.
The cosmological argument is getting used more and more by Christians, probably because of unresearched sludge like this article. Personally, I wouldn’t wipe my ass with the cosmological argument.
Sexy, sexy science (not necessary to beat this argument, but still hella cool)
Our universe did begin to exist, but what can we take from that? If time and space did not begin to exist before the Big Bang, then there was no time for god to do anything and no space for him to exist and do anything in. If there was time and space before the Big Bang, then even if we had no idea what came before the Big Bang, that doesn’t mean that god is the automatic winner. The academically honest thing to do would be to admit ignorance until we do know. However, we are slowly crawling our way past Planck’s Wall.
The problem is that we can’t reliably see what happens before the Big Bang at this time. Physicist can do just fine at T=+10^-43 (the smallest fraction of a second after the Big Bang, also called a Planck Unit. Go here to get a decent grasp of how big a Planck Unit is), but at T=0 physicists are required to do a lot of division by zero, which means they’re kind of hosed when it comes to figuring out what happened there. This means that going after T<0 is downright impossible given the math we presently have to work with.
However, this may be changing. Recently, with Loop Quantum Gravity, we have produced workable models that do take us back to T=0 and reveal a universe before ours that condensed and bounced back out (New Scientist; 7/7/2007, Vol. 194 Issue 2611, p16-16, 1/2p). Another feasible explanation for what occurred before T=0 is Brane Theory (AIP Conference Proceedings; 2004, Vol. 743 Issue 1, p410-416, 7p).
All pre-Big Bang ideas are still being tested, but that’s the whole point – they can be tested. They all predict certain ways that the early universe would behave that can be compared to observable reality. Take multiverse theory, for instance. Did you know that when you smash atoms together in a reactor it produces the same ratio of particles every single time? Did you also know that we have established that the ratio of particles produced by the Big Bang is the same ratio as when we smash atoms? This suggests that a Big Bang type of event is naturally what happens when enough matter is crushed under enough pressure (like, say, in the trillions of black holes in the universe). Of course, since nothing can escape a black hole, these events would have to occur inward into another pocket of space-time (hence “multiverse”). If this system is true, the multiverse could very well be infinitely old. Compare these ideas to the idea of an intelligent god which violates how we know the universe to work, is supported by absolutely zero evidence, cannot be tested, and is essentially a placeholder for people who think “I don’t know” is a victory over science.
So even though our universe began, there are far more plausible explanations in terms of science than a god.
What’s more, in a no boundary universe, physicists have calculated the odds of something existing rather than nothing, and it is over 60% (Stenger, The Comprehensible Cosmos, supplement H.).
For a full explanation on the nature of nothing and why our universe could originate from nothing, watch this lecture by cosmological physicist Lawrence Krauss.