philosophy science

nothing and something

A) “God is the creator of everything there is.”

B) “Oh yeah, well who created God, then?”

A) “That’s a nonsense question.”

B) “Why?  Who says so?”

A) “Well, God would be the sort of thing that isn’t created.”

B) “Well, if God can be self-existent, then why can’t we just have made that claim for the universe?”

A) “Well, first of all the universe appears to have a beginning.”

B) “Well, why couldn’t God have had a beginning?”

A) “Well, reason points to something that has no beginning, and was not created, but is ‘just there’ so to speak.”

B) “But why can’t this be true of the universe?”

A) “Well, how would we know this to be the case?  It looks like it had a beginning, and how could we know that it caused itself?”

B) “Well, how would we know that God created the universe then?  We didn’t see that either.”

A) “God is the reason why there is something rather than nothing.”

B) “No, we now know that God is no longer a viable answer to that question…”

A) “Really!?  How and when did we find this out?”

B) “Well, we now know that universes can create themselves through ‘spontaneous creation’, due to the law of gravity.”

A) “Wait, so you’re saying that the reason that there is something rather than nothing is because the law of gravity forces universe to self-create themselves?”

B) “Yes, no need at all to drag in theological speculations anymore.  It’s totally a scientific question.”

A) “So, the thing that is the cause of everything is natural law?”

B) “Yep.”

A) “But how can any laws exist, let alone cause anything, if nothing exists yet?”

B) “That’s a nonsense question.”

9 replies on “nothing and something”

The core problem with Hawking’s book, and M-theory (as I understand it) is that it requires all possible universes to exist simultaneously.

This requires
a) something to come from nothing
b) things to happen without a cause (i.e. a universe)

Having offended some of the basic precepts of logic and the scientific method, Hawking goes even further and proposes that INFINITE somethings to come from nothing. His book is just an attempt to regress the prior cause of the universe back to a multiverse.

Hawking is wrong because:
-Universes are not spraying all over the place
-Something does not come from nothing (well, there are tiny fluctuations of spacetime but they do not ‘exist’ in the usual sense)
-Everything observed by science has a cause

Science has not observed ‘nothing’ so we can’t even be certain that absolute nothingness even exists.
We haven’t yet been able to reconstruct the conditions of the universe prior to the singularity, so all we have is mathematical hypotheses. M-Theory (and all related concepts) are functioning hypotheses, whereas ‘God did it’ is not a functioning hypothesis, it’s a non-answer.
So while Hawking almost certainly doesn’t have ‘the answer’ at least he’s trying to figure it out, as soon as faith is injected into the picture and something is placed into the realm of ‘god did it’ investigation seems to cease.

certainly scientific explanations and philosophical/theological explanations are not the same kind of thing. the main point is that they are not in competition or conflict with one another – and thus, scientific explanations don’t ‘rule out’ a god.

I had a long discussion about this issue with a reader on my blog back in august. I am of the opinion that when a philosophical or theological claim has natural, or scientific implications, then science has the ability to either confirm or deny that theological or philosophical claim.
I used the example of the god of the Young Earth Creationists. Science has shown emphatically that the earth is not young, and that life evolved, so if the young earth creationist is adamant in his/her belief that his/her god created the earth 6000 years ago and that all life was created in more-or-less its current form, then science DOES have something to say about THAT god. Science tells us that the god of the young earth creationists does not exist.
The reader of my blog ‘Karl’ was advocating the position that they simply have an incorrect understand of their god and that the science doesn’t disprove their god. If you talk to Ken Ham though, his entire faith revolves around the idea of a literal Genesis. If Ken Ham is adamant about that, then I am certain that Ken Ham’s god does not exist.

No. When Ken Ham says that the earth is 6k yrs old, he’s not making a theological claim with scientific implications, but rather is making quite directly a scientific claim. Science doesn’t refute his theology, but his science.
Yes, his ministry leans toward making the age of the earth the central thing to believe about God, but if we’re going to be honest and specific his claim a) is a scientific claim, b) based on a hermeneutical (mis)understanding, and c) has theological implications.

I agree with you, but (I guess this is kind of just arguing semantics) don’t you think that it is true to say that ‘there isn’t a god in existence that created the universe 6,000 years ago’?
In that sense science does have something to say about certain types of deities, with attributes that are integral to their being. A god of thunder can not exist, because we now know what actually causes thunder, and gods of thunder were notably absent.

If we’re going to be precise logically: It breaks no logical rules to say that God could indeed have created a ‘mature’ universe 6,000 years ago (light from stars on the way, annual rings in place in trees, etc.). Science cannot disprove this kind of proposed past creative activity anymore than it could disprove that we were all created 10 minutes ago with memories, etc. The issue science raises is not God’s existence but God’s nature/character (i.e. expecting us to believe in a young earth in spite of evidence to the contrary).

Ah yes good point. So then if it raises issues about the nature and character of gods, then you could still make a syllogism based on a few proposed attributes.

For example
A) God creates the universe 6,000 years ago to appear as if it were 13.7 billion years old
B) God demands that we believe the earth is 6,000 years old despite all investigations pointing to the contrary on pain of death (and on pain of hell in fundamentalism)

C) Such a god could not all-loving and benevolent (since he created us with inquisitive minds), and would be an author of confusion.

But then we have left the realm of strict science and have co-opted philosophy to finish the job.

the simplest expression of it would be to say that it would make God a bit deceptive. As has been said for roughly two centuries now – the book of scripture and the book of nature cohere when rightly interpreted.
But let’s not forget the key point – the young/old earth/universe issue is not about God’s existence. The scientific evidence for an old earth/universe is not evidence against God. It is rather evidence against a literal interpretation of the creative activity in the Genesis narrative(s).

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