During a recent discussion, I was posed the following question:
”So… you’re not saying that the universe is necessary, and you acknowledge that you cannot show the universe is necessary.. so why should we then think that it is?” – Findo
These types of questions raise interesting problems for both theists and atheists. They also seem to raise difficult problems for theoretical physicists. The problem seem to boil down to two unpalatable options which both imply that something has always existed (“necessary” in the language of philosophy).
The options seem to be:
1) The universe is necessary, or
2) The universe is contingent (caused).
The first option solves raises no further questions, but does present us with the mind bending idea that the universe always exists in some form.
The second raises a two further apparent possibilities:
2a) The universe is contingent on something necessary, or
2b) The universe’s cause is also contingent.
This later option leads to the possibility of infinite causal chains, while the former allows an necessary entity. Again, neither seem satisfactory; or at least they are equally unpalatable as a necessary universe.
“Cogito ergo sum.” – René Descartes
Given we empirically test the universe, we know it exists – at least insofar as we know anything truly exists, but modern physicists are often quoted saying “the universe began when nothing exploded”. Of course this is a massive straw man, since the universe began with a singularity.
It is important to note we have been able to experimentally verify many of the prediction made by big bang cosmology, however we have yet to push our science as far we we can push our mathematical models.
Apologists assert their God caused the universe, either by magic 6,000 years ago (if they are fundamentalists), or by conjuring the singularity into being (of they are more reasonable). When pressed on how they have come to know this information, we are often presented with faith or philosophical reasoning (an argument to allow the conclusion). Of course, physicists are also capable of making these philosophical arguments as well.
The mutiverse (M-Theory) is an hypothesis to explain the universe’s particular characteristics, but I feel it’s a solution looking for a problem. After all, why should the mutiverse have its characteristics? Is an infinite number of universes, each with different characteristics, really more palatable than an infinite chain of causation, or an infinite God? I don’t think it is, and there is currently no experimental way to verify M-Theory.
“… the Judeo-Christian God under discussion is described/understood as necessary and thus, to ask who made it is simply a category error which renders the question meaningless.” – Findo
And that’s how we determine reality in every other sphere on endeavour. We construct a model of how the world works, then set about testing that model against reality. Where the model fails, we adjust the model to suit. Rinse, repeat.
Apologists seem to abandon this rational approach when it finally and inevitably fails them. This is preciously the purpose of faith – belief in contempt of the evidence. They “have faith” the cause of the universe is necessary, eternal, and “maximal”. Asking for empirical evidence of God (a real being, we are told) and you’ll be accused of making “category error which renders the question meaningless.” This is goal post shifting at it’s worst.
The question is not “how do we know the universe is not contingent” or “how have we ruled out other possible physical universe” or “how did you rule out ‘God’ as a possible cause”, but how could you know any of these things?
It is the responsibility of those making the claims to provide the evidence to support them.
This is simply a masterpiece. Thank you very much Philhellenes for your poetic and insightful voice.
“… became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God!”
For those who can stand it, here is a direct link to the MP3 recording.
The lecture itself is filled to the brim with amazing scientific facts, interesting insights, and flawed thinking. Much of the sermon (yes, I am comfortable calling it that) points to the intricate details of the universe and how if any one of the cosmological constants were different, then life would not be possible. Somehow (for reasons he does not go into in any depth) this eliminates all other contender Gods, leaving Yahweh standing true. I cannot comment on the reasoning of this, because none is presented. Neither does Dr. Ross offer the obvious alternative that none of the God stories are true. God’s are myths and fantasy.
Of course, this is an argument from design. Essentially, Dr. Ross is arguing that the universe we see is so complex and fine-tuned that it simply must have been designed for human life. It seems it has not occurred to him that life on Earth has evolved to fit the conditions here, or that there is no possible way that life may have evolved differently – without human life at all. Indeed, it seems for much of the universes 14.7 billion year lifespan it has done fine without us.
Positing a God to solve the apparent problem of design does not actually solve the issue. If God is at all complex, then (by exactly the same argument) he must have been created as well. This obviously leads to an infinite regress which solves nothing. Theists just wave their hands and say “Well, obviously God was always here” as if that actually proves something.
Interestingly, the only logical escape from this argument (as far as I have been able to determine) is that God is the least complex thing imaginable. I would assert that something which does not exist is absolutely without any attributes which require explanation; therefore God does not exist.
How can it be that the same argument which proves God also disproves him? Oh yes – the concept of God is bullshit.
Those well versed in debating theology will recognise Dr. Ross’s second error – he is referring to life as we know it. That says nothing about the potential infinite number of ways in which other forms of life may have evolved, or the bio-chemical systems on which it may depend. Indeed, even within the framework of the chemistry for the known universe some have theorised silicon based life systems (to name only one).
Near the end of this torturous lecture Dr. Ross addresses a number of common rebuttals to the argument he put forward. Unsurprisingly he manages to completely misunderstand them and offers horrible analogous straw men to burn before his devoted audience. In order to do them justice (and to limit the size of my blog posts after the last round of lengthy and boring tirades) I will be addressing each of these in separate and subsequent posts.
This is our universe.
Abortion is an unpleasant business. It’s tragic, messy, traumatising, and unfortunately necessary in some circumstances. Emotions run especially deep in the case of late term abortions since the loss of potential is almost tangible. This is what makes the Kermit Gosnell case so shocking. For those who may not know, Kermit Gosnell was recently sentencedRead more.
Continuing my twitter review of “The Bible” which is currently airing on the History Channel (of all places). Parts 1 and 2 can be found here. #TheBible recap: People taking to themselves, wandering around lost, ninja angels, and a metric shit tonne of smiting. Abraham has been promised “descendants as numerous as the stars”. ARead more.
Some of you may have heard of the Bible. Fewer still may realise the History Channel aired a dramatisation of this holy text. In the name of science I obtained a copy of this epic series and began tweeting my observations. @markybob00 thought it might be a good idea to keep these in an archive somewhere,Read more.
Over at Conversion Points Radio Jared Orme presents his argument for how atheism has logically resulted in the deaths of over 100 million people under the totalitarian regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao. Unfortunately for Jared he opens his argument with the statement: “These historians put the problem squarely upon the same ideologyRead more.
On the 17 June 2012 I took part in a radio interview with Jared Orme (@conversionradio) of “Conversion Radio” in Minnisota regarding the contingency argument. The invitation was a response to my blog post and twitter conversation with Jared regarding apparent flaws I saw in the argument proposed, so he invited me onto his show for a chat.
I am told this interview went to air sometime later, however due to technical error Jared had lost the original record. I present it here unedited, although I did remove the pre and post chatter and some minor stuff in the middle where advertisements would have been placed. Listening back, there are points I wish I had communicated better and some I should have attacked much more forcefully. Oh well, maybe next time?
Please note there were some problems with the recording on my end as the Skype plugin I used did not seem to capture my microphone. In order to compensate I have compressed the recording, which gives it a rather loud flat sound. I am afraid this was the best I could do with the time, knowledge, and resources at my disposal.