Does God Exist? – Part 1 A brief look at the arguments

First a disclaimer, I am not in any way shape of form a philosopher. Since my freshman Introduction to Philosophy class forty years ago I have done my best to avoid the subject. However, when we get into the “why?” questions we are drawn, however reluctantly, into philosophy. I have been blessed to have my good friend Glenn who loves to get into the philosophical trenches and wrestle with the weighty and knotty questions we all want answers to. In fact as a basis for these posts I will use an outline Glenn provided for a class on apologetics we co-taught over ten years ago.

So why after my disclaimer get into this? It started with a discussion thread on one of my “Problem of Evil” posts. Which is kind of ironic as the “Problem” posts started after a comment on my book review post about Norman Geisler’s “If God Why Evil”, I never know where these things will lead.

Now a few ground rules. First, we have to agree that truth is knowable. If we cannot know what is true and what is not then we are spinning or wheels. Next we need to agree that we exist and are finite beings. Yes I know this sounds dumb but reams have been written on this very topic. If we do not exist then all discussion is moot. Finally we need to agree that the universe exists, we do not live in some Matrix like dream.

Ok, that’s out of the way, let’s dig in. There are five proofs I would like to explore. We will look at them in order of their strength. The first proof is the  cosmological proof also known as the kalam or horizontal argument.

1.       Everything that has a beginning has a cause

2.       The universe had a beginning

3.       The universe was caused

I am unaware of anything that came into existence without a cause. Also, something cannot be self caused. In order to have an effect or cause a thing has to exist.

Since the 1960’s when scientists at the Bell labs detected faint background radiation emanating from across the sky science has had to grudgingly admit that the universe is not eternal and had a beginning it has been called the Big Bang. Test after test have confirmed that there was a time in the past when the universe began.  Scientists in order to get around this inconvenient truth have postulate that while our universe had a beginning it was just an offspring from another older universe. The problem here is that there is no way to prove the existence of another universe. Even if we could somehow prove the other mother universe that only puts the problem further back in time and would not explain how that universe began. And please do not postulate an infinite number of past universes as that only results in an infinite regress which is impossible to transverse.

Another clue as to the universe having a beginning is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The universe is running down. The total entropy of the universe is increasing. In essence we are running out of usable energy and the universe is cooling eventually all the universe will be at the same temperature. Something that runs down cannot be eternal.

Therefore the universe has a cause. Something or someone caused the universe to come into existence. The universe needs a first cause. I call that person God. God is the first cause. Now before you bring up the question of what caused God, let me answer. Nothing caused God, He is the uncaused cause. God only needs a cause if He had a beginning. God has no beginning so He needs no cause.

Cause and effect, we could not do science without it and we could not function without it. I know of no effect that does not have a cause. In summary, the universe had  a beginning which needed a cause to come into existence. That first cause is what theists call God.

Ok, I have about drained my tiny brain dry. That was way too much philosophy for one setting. For further reading try The Kalm Cosmological Argument by William Lane Craig. Next week I will look at the Cosmological proof for God.

Have a blessed day,

David

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About dwwork

The name of this blog is taken from 1 Peter 3:13 - “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. This verse became special to me over ten years ago when I was asked to teach an adult Sunday school class on Christian apologetics. This interest grew over the years to the point that I took some graduate level classes in apologetics. I think the best way to be prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks is to know scripture. It is my hope that through these short devotionals the reader will become more familiar with each verse. I have tried when possible to make them personal hoping in some small way to show that God’s word written over two thousand years ago is still relevant today. In the writing of these short devotionals I have been able to better understand how God’s word impacts my life. It is my hope that you too will come closer to our Lord Jesus and develop a closer relationship with Him. Finally, if the reader finds anything in conflict with scripture please let me know. God’s word is the final authority always overrules anything I might write. David
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Arguments for God, Comentary, God and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Does God Exist? – Part 1 A brief look at the arguments

  1. John Paine says:

    Well done David! We read a lot about apologetics, reason, doctrine, creationism, cosmology, etc., but it is refreshing to look through the lens of philosophy. There are strong defenses here. Thanks!

    • dwwork says:

      John, thanks. When I have taught apologetics in Sunday School classes I always start without using the Bible. If a person does not believe in God then they will not believe the Bible. Have a blessed day, David

    • Joe Quatrone, Jr. says:

      Excellent post, Dave! Genesis is written with the presupposition that God exists. The book does not argue for the existence of God, but simply asserts that everything exists because of God. God is the Founder and Creator of all life. As you said, God is the first cause and the universe is the first effect.

      Not only does Genesis tell us God created the universe, but there is scientific and objective evidence to support this as well. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says all things entropy and entropy always increases and never decreases, proves God’s existence. According to this scientific law, the universe becomes more disorderly overtime. This is evident in the extreme age that men were able to reach back in Bible days. When God originally created the universe, everything was perfect, but entropy has increased in all things and will do so until the end of time. “They will all wear out like a garment and be discarded” (Ps. 102:26). The Second Law applies everywhere in the universe, without exception. Unlike mere theories, the Second Law has proven to be true and no dependable scientist would ever suggest otherwise.

      Perhaps, many of us deny God’s existence because we want to live independently of Him: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19).

      Your blog is my new favorite blog, Dave!

  2. Just a quick note with a link to a related post: things come into existence without cause all the time. Quantum physics says that the alpha particle that comes out of a radioactive nucleus, for example, has no cause (it’s not a cause we haven’t figured out yet–it has no cause).

    You might say that that applies at the quantum level, not at the level of a universe. But keep in mind that the universe was a quantum particle itself at the Big Bang.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2011/12/how-science-works-and-how-christianity-thinks-it-wins/

    • dwwork says:

      Bob, thanks for dropping by. I know the quantum particles “popping” into existence are mathematically possible but I am not sue if this has actually been observed. However, quantum physics is really out of my league. However, even if the big bang arise from a singularity the question remains as to why. It seems to me that with all the mass/energy in a singularity that could spawned a universe nothing could escape. As far as I know the only singularities we know of or in black holes and nothing can escape the event horizon of one. Thanks for the blog, look forward to exchanging ideas. David

      • Oh yeah, this is more than speculation. Alpha and beta particles coming out of a nucleus as well as particle pairs in a vacuum are both well-established science.

        As for the Big Bang, let’s talk about one thing at a time. Yes, we don’t know why, but let’s first put the Kalam argument to rest. You see why it’s flawed, right?

      • dwwork says:

        Actually it is well established theoretical science. What happens in a particle accelerator doe not necessarily make an observation in the real world. In fact what is happening in particle physics seems to me an example of intelligence operating in the world not what happens in nature. Now if someone actually observed this happening in space you would have a valid point. As far as settled science, science is never settled or it should never be settled. I have found that over the last thirty years that all too often science fits the data to the theory rather than fit the theory to the data. As foe the Kalam,I have found nothing to support that the universe did not have a beginning. All finite things have beginnings and nothing is self caused so the finite universe had a cause. I still believe there is no free lunch.

    • Yes, I appreciate that science is never settled. However, I propose that it’s settled that point 1 in your Kalam argument is without support now that we agree that some events don’t have causes.

      On point 2, you say that the universe had a beginning. If you mean the Big Bang, I accept that as far as it goes. But perhaps the Big Bang simply brought the universe as we know it into its current form. That is, to say that there was nothing before the Big Bang is simply speculation—the Big Bang theory doesn’t say that. (You’re probably aware that the Big Bang was an expansion event, not a creation event.)

      As for no free lunch, I admire your hard-nosed skepticism. I just wish that it extended to demanding to know where God came from. Alternatively, if God has always existed (and this causes no logical problems) why couldn’t the universe (in some form or another) have always existed?

      • dwwork says:

        Bob, I was a bit surprised that you thought the first premise in the Kalam argument was settled to the negative, then after some thought I realized that you are either saying that the quantum particle or the quantum fluctuation are uncaused. Now as I understand it, the quantum particle is the effect of the quantum fluctuation so it is caused. As to the fluctuation it is either a property of space/time or would be caused by the universe. I don’t see how one can say the fluctuation is outside the universe. Now as to if the universe could have been caused by a quantum fluctuation, I think that can be ruled out due to the short nature of quantum events. I think Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in part would lead me to believe that the more energy a quantum particle has the shorter the life of the particle. Now since the universe has essentially all the energy of the universe then its life would have been infinitesimally short. And to what happened before the big bang, we will never know. Since all laws of physics break down at that point and for a short time after the start. I stand by my original assertion, the universe had a beginning, it is finite so it therefor had a cause. I call that cause God.

      • Quantum physics recognizes things coming into existence without cause—that’s all I’m saying.

        This contradicts your point #1, so let’s discard Kalam.

        I stand by my original assertion, the universe had a beginning, it is finite so it therefor had a cause. I call that cause God.

        I thought that your original assertion included “everything that has a beginning has a cause,” but we’ve shown that that doesn’t hold, given that there are quantum counterexamples.

        Further, the universe had a beginning in its present form. What happened before the Big Bang? We don’t know, so your “the universe had a beginning” is without foundation, I think.

      • dwwork says:

        There is nothing finite that is without a cause. Bottom line, the universe as it exists now is the cause of any quantum fluctuations. These fluctuations are energy fluctuations which in this case results in matter, energy and matter being one and the same. As to scientist saying anything is uncaused, what can I say. It seems that over the past few decades scientists have been putting forth many explanations that cannot be verified all in the need to explain away the beginning of the universe because the alternative is not to their liking. In my readings on science and physics I have found nothing that makes me believe that anyone has found an uncaused event or thing.

      • There is nothing finite that is without a cause.

        No? That’s not what I understand from physics. You need to back up this claim.

        As to scientist saying anything is uncaused, what can I say.

        Exactly! What can you say? The scientific consensus is the best approximation we laymen have.

        Are you saying that you’ve never heard of this concept? Look at the description of radioactivity—the alpha or beta particle that comes out of the nucleus didn’t have a conventional cause (it was heated to a certain temperature, it got this old, etc.).

  3. John Paine says:

    There is a big difference between “without cause” and “without explanation.” Just how much do we have to know to presume that there is no cause? Using your logic, if not knowing what happened before the Big Bang is grounds for dismissing the beginning of the universe, then our understanding limits truth, and you end up with a circular argument–if we can’t understand it, it can’t be true. The majority of scientists would disagree. It’s easier to presume nothing than to understand (and appreciate) something?

    • John:

      You’re right that there’s a big difference, and “without cause” is what scientists say.

      • John Paine says:

        OK, the Nats game is over, so let’s debate as time allows. Here’s hoping I do better than they did today. ; – )

        First, the premise of the Kalam argument is carefully formulated to preclude uncaused THINGS—it does indeed allow for uncaused EVENTS, and in this respect fully accommodates quantum indeterminacy with regard to events. As you have stated, there are events that occur (or appear to occur) without cause, such as the emission of a photon or the decay of atomic isotopes, or unpredictable human behavior. But those are events, not things.

        Our inability to identify a causal condition is not a proof that the causal conditions do not exist. While scientists hypothesize that certain events are uncaused, there are 10 or so different physical interpretations of the mathematics of quantum mechanics, including some that are fully deterministic. So even on a quantum level these events are not proven in counterexamples to causal determinism. In “God: The Failed Hypothesis,” Victor Stenger admits that causes for these events may someday be found, and therefore we cannot assert with any kind of confidence that these events are actually ‘uncaused’.

      • John:

        First, the premise of the Kalam argument is carefully formulated to preclude uncaused THINGS—it does indeed allow for uncaused EVENTS, and in this respect fully accommodates quantum indeterminacy with regard to events.

        The first premise in the argument discussed in this post is, “Everything that has a beginning has a cause.” The beta particle that just came out of that radioactive nucleus did not have a cause. Therefore, we must discard premise 1.

        But you disagree. What am I missing?

        If you’re saying that science might someday change the consensus and point to a cause for these things, then we could reinstate premise 1. But until that point, I don’t see how we can.

        If you want to replace it with “It could be that everything has a cause (except god and other things that we imagine are eternal)” or whatever, that’s fine, but that’s a much weaker premise.

        As an aside, the philosophical approach that someone like William Lane Craig takes is like coming to a gun fight with a water pistol. Philosophy and common sense aren’t much use at the frontier of physics.

      • dwwork says:

        Bob, I would appreciate your source or sources for sciences belief that there is not a cause for quantum fluctuations. I would like to add them to my library. Thanks, David

      • dwwork says:

        Bob, thanks for the links, but I was looking for some sources where quantum fluctuations have actually been observed. All I have found is theory which is ok but until a scientific theory is backed by observation it remains a theory. As to the radioactive decay link, It looks like a bunch of guys bouncing ideas around who really want to discount God rather than put forth any actually proof. I am always a bit skeptical about anything on the internet, especially Wikipedia, who know who has edited the article. I have found things that are just dead wrong. It was an article on an historical event. Someone who did not know better, with history probably a lot of somebodies, would think it was true.

        Scientific theories come and go and they all seem to have the consistence of the scientific community. At one time every scientist thought the steady state theory was correct and fought the big bank theory. Carl Sagan was still hanging on to it in the 80’s, see Cosmos. Everyone thought Newton was it, then came relativity and now quantum. Quantum physics may be it but it still needs observations to back up all the math.

        Any ways, if you can direct me to a book or journal I would appreciate it. I have enjoyed our discussions. It is so nice to discuss things in a civilized manner. Thanks. David

  4. John Paine says:

    Bob:

    “The beta particle…came out of that radioactive nucleus,” it didn’t just appear from nothing. You have to start with a radioactive nucleus.

    I will fully grant you that common sense doesn’t help much in quantum mechanics. However, I do believe that philosophy and theology help our understanding and worldview (no surprise if you disagree).

    As for the frontiers of science, there is a lot more that we don’t know than we do know. I appreciated Daniel Whiteson’s comments on the work surrounding the Higgs. We are looking at the tail of the animal in particle physics. How many particle forms have we discovered? 12. How many particle forms are there? A hundred or a million? We don’t know. What does it mean? Of gunfights and water pistols let’s be real—there are lots of blanks making much more noise than doing any conclusive good on both sides of the KCA debate.

    There is often a duality (pardon the quantum pun) to reality. As C. John Collins says regarding philosophical reductionism, that pile of atoms in my lap is actually a purring cat. To me, both perspectives (the cat and the pile of atoms) are true, both are wondrous, and both inspire awe. However, you can’t pat the atoms, so the greater truth in essence is that it’s a cat. (I will also grant you that philosophy can be quite frustrating as well.)

    Someone like me, a creationist, cannot help but appreciate the fine tuning of the universe. You might have the same appreciation, although we would be completely at odds in appreciating the cause of that fine tuning. To David and me, that cause is God. To you it is not God—got it.

    We’re pretty much debating right along classic atheist-creationist lines and that will give at least one of us a headache and likely not change either of our positions. I would fall in behind William Lane Craig, the folks at Reasons To Believe, and many of the proponents of fine-tuning arguments. You would not. I do appreciate your integrity in this discussion of David’s post, and look forward to your final comments. You can have the last word.

    Thanks,

    John

    • dwwork says:

      Bob, I have to agree with John. Neither of us will change the others mind but it has been fun exchanging ideas. I guess the late Richard Feynman was right when he said “Nobody understands quantum theory.” An we poor laymen will never be able to wade through the math. Still this is fun and it gets the old gray cells working.

    • John:

      [The beta particle] didn’t just appear from nothing. You have to start with a radioactive nucleus.

      Yeah. And … ?

      The problem remains: point #1, “everything that has a beginning has a cause” is flawed. Discard it.

      If you’re making a new point that the universe is something from nothing (unlike the beta particle in question), (1) that’s not the scientific consensus (you can claim it, if you’d like, but you need to provide the evidence) and (2) this is a whole new ball game. Your reliance on things in our everyday experience to ground “everything that has a beginning has a cause” is all of a sudden out the window, because all of that didn’t appear from nothing.

      I do believe that philosophy and theology help our understanding and worldview (no surprise if you disagree).

      Whoa–you’re clairvoyant! I do indeed disagree.

      The domain here is physics (or perhaps cosmology). Discoveries in this field are made by physicists.

      How many particle forms have we discovered? 12.

      I’m not sure what “particle forms” means, but I agree that there is just a handful of different kinds of particles.

      How many particle forms are there? A hundred or a million? We don’t know.

      Yes, we don’t know. But why imagine that there are so many? I don’t think that science points in that direction.

      We’re pretty much debating right along classic atheist-creationist lines and that will give at least one of us a headache and likely not change either of our positions.

      You’re right.

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