Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

The war between science and atheism, part one

Note: Part two of the series on the fine-tuning argument is here.

I was recently reading over at Colliding Universes, and I noticed that Denyse O’Leary was commenting on this post by Christian apologist Frank Turek at TownHall.com. Turek recounts his experiences in his debate (audio, video), with atheist Christoper Hitchens on September 9, 2008 at Virgina Commonwealth University. In particular, Turek describes his use of cosmological argument, and the scientific confirmation of that argument provided by recent discoveries in astronomy and physics.

And suddenly it struck me: atheism is dead. The big bang has killed it. And it is safe to say that in this day and age, if you meet an atheist, then that person is either ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that). And I think that is worth talking about the discoveries that led up to this theory, since this theory is the most accepted theory of the origin of the universe in astrophysics today. All Christians should be able to discuss these discoveries and explain how God created the entire physical universe from nothing – and we can know this. The creation of the universe in the Big Bang is as confirmed as the theory that the Earth goes around the Sun.

First, here is the syllogism for the argument for a supernatural cause that brings the entire physical universe into being:

  1. Whatever begins to exist requires a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe requires a cause.

Second, let’s review the 6 fairly recent discoveries that confirm premise 2 with scientific observations. These discoveries reversed the atheism-friendly theory of an eternal universe, and led to the theory of the creation of the entire physical universe out of nothing.

  1. Einstein’s theory of general relativity
  2. the red-shifting of light from distant galaxies
  3. the cosmic background radiation (which also disproves the oscillating model of the universe)
  4. the second law of thermodynamics applied to star formation theory
  5. hydrogen-helium abundance predictions
  6. radioactive element abundance predictions

Why do atheists deny these findings? Probably for emotional comfort – they desire autonomy and so they invent a worldview that allows them to feel good about jettisoning moral constraints and accountability . But for those of us who do constrain our worldviews using scientific discoveries, I recommend the book “God and the Astronomers” by agnostic scientist Robert Jastrow. His book is the best introduction that I have seen on the 6 discoveries that led to the Big Bang theory.

Here is the best quote from the book, (p. 116 of the second edition), where Jastrow, the former director of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute, explains how atheistic scientists were forced, against their wills, to accept the big bang theory.

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

The acceptance of the big bang is just another example of how the progress of science whittles away at the gaps in our knowledge. These gaps are leveraged by atheists in order to cling to the delusion that the material world is all there is. But we now know that the physical universe had a non-physical, supernatural, cause that brought it into existence, just like the Bible says in Genesis 1:1.

Turek unpacks how the creation of the physical universe is best explained by a supernatural creative act.

Why couldn’t natural forces have produced the universe? Because there was no nature and there were no natural forces ontologically prior to the Big Bang—nature itself was created at the Big Bang. That means the cause of the universe must be something beyond nature—something we would call supernatural.  It also means that the supernatural cause of the universe must at least be:

  • spaceless because it created space
  • timeless because it created time
  • immaterial because it created matter
  • powerful because it created out of nothing
  • intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed
  • personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).

Now, I would never take the faith of atheists away from them, because it gives them comfort, and hope that no one will ever hold them accountable. It is also important for them to have some privatized, subjective way of looking down on other people, so that they can feel better about themselves, despite their flight from science and reason. I really admire the way that by sheer force of will, they are able to believe things without a shred of objective evidence. But, when we discuss these matters in the public square, I think we should insist that we limit our discussion to the available public, testable evidence.

A research paper written by William Lane Craig, and published in a peer-reviewed journal of astrophysics is available here. This paper contains thorough refutations of all naturalistic rivals to the big bang theory.

UPDATE 1: Welcome, visitors from The Anchoress. Thanks for the link, Anchoress! 300+ hits and counting… WOW!!!

UPDATE 2: Welcome, visitors from Triablogue. Thanks for the link, gentlemen!

UPDATE 3: Welcome, visitors from Post-Darwinist! Thanks for the link, Denyse. First-time visitors, please take a look around the blog. There are many varied topics here, and most of my posts are not nearly as snarky as this satirical one!

UPDATE 4: Part two in the series on atheism’s war against science has been posted here.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , ,

19 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    Your comments have the same style and tone as what you’d find at infidels.org or humanists.net…and I suspect on purpose; not so much to be nasty but rather to show how topsy-turvy the atheist worldview is. And although I agree with your analysis and I’m a huge Craig fan, you’re preaching to the choir here and atheists will throw up a defensive barrier before making past the first paragraph. But perhaps that’s ok as many uninformed believers could benefit from knowing the basic arguments for theism.

    • You’ve nailed it exactly! You probably can recognize the quotes from Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan and even Time magazine’s cover that I just paraphrased and applied back to them. I won’t be this snarky all the time, I promise!

  2. Perezoso says:

    That something came from nothing (if true–) does not mean that it was “caused”, or that there was a Creator causing it; for that matter, any said Creator has no necessary relation to judeo-christianity (and dogma was off by a few billion years). For that matter, an omnipotent Creator, like a mad scientist, establishes all parameters, whether in physics or chemistry (or human history): including the laws of thermodynamics, in effect willing his own destruction (suns die, etc)–so He’s either the most sinister entity who ever existed (the theist cannot establish his “goodness” or justice, etc), or not omnipotent, or even monotheistic.

    There are other points that could be raised–the immense difficulties of making accurate inferences about events that took place billions or years ago, and how matter and energy simply comes about ex nihilo–not possible in “ordinary science”)

    • Paradox says:

      Perezoso, first, you need a reason to go against the causal premise that science rests upon. To go against it is simply absurd: why don’t we see things suddenly popping into existence uncaused? We already know that quantum mechanics is based on causal influence, it simply seems to lack the determinism of classical mechanics.

      Second, the burden of proof is on you that something that is spaceless, timeless, volitional, etc. can be natural. The forces of nature cannot be used as an explanation, because without time, these forces cannot function.

      Third, the argument is only content with trying to prove that God exists. It couldn’t possibly care less about who God is.

      Fourth, to say that the second law of thermodynamics is bad because the universe will eventually be destroyed is a poorly thought out rebuttal to the thesis that God is loving. If you think that life can exist without using energy (because the only way to harness it is for it to spread from higher-energy bodies to lower-energy ones), then that’s not my problem. The burden is once again on your shoulders. So I think I’ll just take the thesis that God is loving, and therefore conclude that death isn’t the end of my existence.

      Fifth, we can dodge the issue of the first law of thermodynamics by saying that the total mass-energy of the universe is zero. And that’s not being fair, after-all: the laws of physics only apply _after_ the universe comes into existence. So I don’t even need to address this demand for a material cause of the universe. All we need is a sufficient cause, which is different from a material cause.

      I think we can handle your “tougher” objections.

    • Paradox says:

      I should have explained this before in my first response to you, but I forgot it when I was trying to get my first response to actually register in the comment box. The system wouldn’t accept it the first few times I tried.

      You say that the creation dogma is billions of years off. To say this is to make the (completely untrue and unfair) assumption that Young Earth creationism is the only valid interpretation of the Bible. First, I think that we should deny that Young Earth creationism is a valid interpretation, because it is too simplistic a view of God. Second, try reading “A Closer Look At Genesis 1″ by Perry Marshall, or else one of the several pages on “God and Science” that demonstrate the superiority of an Old Earth perspective over the Young Earth perspective.

      Please note, that this is all ignoring the interpretation that John Walton has uncovered, which would overturn your argument without me even blinking, while you slept through it.

  3. The traditional atheist rebuttal to the First Cause argument is, who created God?

    That makes a nice point, but I don’t find it entirely convincing, because it contains a complacent acceptance of an uncaused universe.

    I think we humans find ourselves unable to resolve the logical paradox–things don’t come into existence without a cause, yet there is no explanation for the first cause. Neither the atheist nor theist views quite hang together.

    My agnostic view is that humans are too limited in our intelligence to solve the problem, at least at this time. Perhaps logic itself is something that reflects human psychology and perception rather than the underlying truth of the universe.

    I’ve been interested to read recent reports of scientific papers which show how intelligent the honeybee is, and its apparent ability to count and to recognize faces. It’s amazing what bees can do, but we wouldn’t expect them to be able to explain the universe. Likewise, it’s impressive what humans can do, but perhaps understanding the universe in full is above our pay grade.

    • Paradox says:

      The theist has always had an explanation: God is a necessary being. I’ll assume you haven’t heard of “Possible Worlds”, so I’ll describe the concept.
      A possible world is a complete description of reality. The laws of physics it obeys, metaphysical principles, what is happening in them, what did happen in them, and (unless you believe that future counterfactuals lack truth-value altogether) what will happen. A possible world is a way that reality could be (‘be’ is meant tenselessly).

      By saying “God is a necessary being” that means that God exists in all possible worlds. We must first distinguish between broad and strict logical necessity. Broadly logically necessary means that all possible worlds contain God, and this just one of those metaphysical truths. To be strictly logically necessary means that we cannot deny that God exists without invoking a logical contradiction.

      I believe that the Transcendental Argument is just as valid as (Neo-)Platonism is, if not more so. Therefore, because I adhere to a form of conceptualism (where abstract things are ideas in God’s mind), I believe that logic is grounded in God. Because the non-existence of logic is a contradiction, it follows that the non-existence of God is a contradiction.

      No, I am not saying we will be able to understand the universe in full. That would be nice, but that’s not my ultimate goal. God is even bigger, so I’m more interested in Him.

  4. [...] evangelical Christian friend Wintery Knight has started a blog, and fires off a shot at atheism. We often debate by e-mail, and I generally disagree with everything he says, but [...]

  5. There are currently two discussions about this post going on at Triablogue and TransparentEye!

    Check them out here:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-would-dawkins-argue-if-he-were.html

    http://transparenteye.net/?p=267

  6. Chris says:

    Really great article.

  7. [...] Big-Bang killed atheism? This fellow says it. How doth religion go?: Siggy on Jews, Christians, Muslims and [...]

  8. Scott Hebert says:

    >The traditional atheist rebuttal to the First >Cause argument is, who created God?

    And the correct answer is that the Law of Causality (and I use the term ‘Law’ advisedly) only applies to Nature. Now, _even if_ God was not Uncaused (and that means another layer of reality exists, wherein God may be as we are in this reality), a logical conclusion of this is that something exists beyond nature. At the very least, this shows that the theory that nothing beyond the material exists (i.e., materialistic atheism) is false.

    For the universe to have a beginning (and the Big Bang does indeed show that it does have one), it must have a cause. At that point, the Law of Causality comes into effect. There is _only one possible explanation_ for this; something must exist that is uncaused. If not, the chain of causality will never end, and this is a logical inconsistency.

    That is the point of this post. Always before, atheists could challenge this argument on the existence of God on the basis that the universe has no beginning. The Big Bang theory shows that it does.

    I find all of this interesting, but I am a bit disappointed no one pointed out that the Summa contains this argument in its full rhetorical form.

  9. Tennwriter says:

    Transparenteye,

    The “its a mystery” defense is inadequate.

    First, as explained above by Scott Hebert, God is the Uncaused Cause. There is no logical inconsistency on the theist’s side.

    Second, if reason is to be tossed out the window to save atheism, then why does my computer work? Science working is proof of reason. Reason is proof of God.

    Thirdly, this is not complicated stuff. Its beautiful and elegant, but quite straightforward once you think about it. Lets have no false humility here.

    Fourth, I’m not willing to toss out A does not equal Not-A, and admit the universe is non-rational. Personal prejudice you say? But here I stand in all my snarky glory.

    Either the Universe is rational, science works, and God exists or atheism is true.

  10. Wow! That’s one heck of a comment, Tennwriter. “But here I stand in all my snarky glory.” I’m going to steal that bit from you.

  11. hansi says:

    Well, if God created everything, you subscribe to a linear type of causality: A created B. But, what created A?? Who or what created God? Answers are welcomed.

    • hansi, thank you for your question. You need to understand what Stephen Hawking means when he says:

      The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down.

      Something had to exist before time began in order to create time, and the entire physical universe, at t=0. The action of “beginning to exist” is time-bound (temporal) action. If there is no time causally prior to the big bag, then the thing that creates the universe cannot “begin to exist”. It exists outside of time, or eternally.

      You need to try to need to think like a detective. The universe’s beginning is the origin of time, matter, energy and space. Whatever causes these things to start cannot be in time, made up of matter and energy, and exist in space. There are only two possibilities – non-physical mind or minds like ours, or abstract objects like numbers. I don’t think that abstract objects can cause effects, so we are left with a non-physical mind.

      You already know about minds, because that’s what you are. You are a mind, and your mind drives a physical body. God is also a mind.

  12. Nemmerle says:

    re: Wintery Knight’s last comment

    I do not want to see the strong points made in your article detracted from by the last part of your last comment.

    You said: “You already know about minds, because that’s what you are. You are a mind, and your mind drives a physical body. God is also a mind.”

    Rather than “a mind”, would it be more proper to refer to a human as an “embodied soul”, since the soul/mind/body are not separable in our conceptual scheme?

    On the point of “knowing”, I would argue that people still understand relatively little about what the mind is, or how it interacts with the body, considering that even experts have difficulty explaining how and why they know the information their expertise relates. To further complicate matters, Nussbaum, Fodor, and William James all argue in favor of some portions of the body influencing the mind in return.

    Certainly humans are something more than their bodies, or even their mind/brains, as you point towards in your main essay. The list of data in my brain does not exhaust the reasons for my thoughts and actions. A full accounting (not yet possible) of the feedback loops between my body and my environment does not explain the phenomena of cognition or why my sense of self is persistent.

    We are not merely the information our brains and bodies contain, but anything besides that is necessarily similar to the “non-physical, supernatural, cause that brought [the universe] into existence” and this drives atheists up the wall.

    At the same time we should not undervalue our bodies, or treat ourselves as purely ghosts in the machine:
    “Treating the human body as a raw datum … [contradicts] the unity of the human person, whose rational soul is per se et essentialiter the form of his body. The spiritual and immortal soul is the principle of unity of the human being, whereby it exists as a whole — corpore et anima unus — as a person… In fact, body and soul are inseparable: in the person, in the willing agent and in the deliberate act, they stand or fall together.”–Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

    All of these factors point towards “the creation of the physical universe is best explained by a supernatural creative act” as you mention. Yet in regards to “God is also a mind”, I wonder if this steps a little too far into the bounds of what we can and cannot comprehend about the nature of God.

    For your consideration of fighting against atheism in the first please, and for allowing us to weigh in (both to support and critique)…
    Thank you!

  13. Steve James says:

    Sigh.

    Causality is a description of the relation between things inside the universe at various points in spacetime. This in no way implies that the premise “everything which comes into being has a cause” – which is plausible when applied WITHIN the universe necessarily applies to the universe as a whole. This is the major problem with Kalam.

    It is a gigantic leap of unwarranted faith, In essence, it is saying “We know what things are like inside the box, therefore a) things must be the same outside the box and b) there must be something outside the box.”

    The big bang does not imply God, however much you wish it did. The big bang implies that spacetime, at least the parts we can see, has a shape. A 4 dimensional cone, if you will. (yes, I understand string theory, many worlds etc point to a more complex picture but the same basic argument holds.)

    It implies that the universe has a lower bound (ie a limit to how far back time existed). It does not however even necessarily imply that the universe “came into being”. Again, I understand that physics runs into trouble below the Planck time. But still, consider the set of all numbers greater than 0. This set has a lower bound, but no lowest number. It is possible the universe is like this. This is another problem for Kalam.

    The talk of God as a “necessary” being is nonsense. There is no logical necessity for his existence. Likewise, how, other than pure wishful thinking, does anyone believe that the idea of infinite causal regress is a logical contradiction?

    Still, if you have your heart set on a first cause, exisiting in some sense prior to spacetime (whatever THAT means) – try the laws of physics and mathematics. They are certainly plausible candidates for uncaused causes. There is no reason to believe someone created them. But they don’t love us. They aren’t conscious. They didn’t write a book or send their son down to us.

    There is a very real war going on between science and religion. But no conflict at all between science and atheism.

    • Paradox says:

      Steve James, you are trying to deny that the universe has a cause? On the grounds that even though the constituents of the universe are caused, but maybe the universe is exempt?
      Allow me to try to prove that this couldn’t possibly be more wrong:
      1-If the universe is composed of contingent pieces, then it follows that the universe is contingent. If you want to object, try using your line of reasoning on a clock; `Oh, sure, the pieces of the clock are caused, but the clock itself exists without cause!` If it is absurd to believe *that*, why is it different for the universe?
      2-The causal principle is *not* restricted to time, in the sense that `no time,` means `stuff can come into existence without cause.` If you want to object, try using your line of reasoning on a ping pong ball. Suppose that at the big bang, a ping pong ball also formed. Now tell me that you really believe that this ping pong ball is uncaused! If belief in that is absurd, why is the universe an exception?
      3-The causal principle knows NO EXCEPTIONS. If the universe can exist without cause, why does anything else need a cause? You need an explanation for that before you can make a plausible objection. Notice how you cannot say that universes simply don’t need causes but everything else does; not only does that beg the question, but it also gives us no answer; you need to explain *why* this is the case. Given that there is nothing to restrict spontaneous generation to universes, there simply cannot be an explanation.
      Your objection is dead for those reasons.

      Now we come to the idea that the universe was caused by something other than God. Here is why I find this untenable:
      Time only exists when there are events transpiring. All unintelligent forces act because they are prompted by something else. Once we accept that time had a beginning (I find this axiomatic, but dissent is reasonable right now), we see that natural forces could not be the cause.

      Now we come to the idea that the laws of physics and mathematics are the uncaused cause of the universe, as a possibility. Really? If you think they are a possibility, here is a challenge: you need to produce an example of something that was caused by these laws. Saying that the universe is an example is question-begging, so don’t try it.
      One could also dispute that these truths are necessary: denying them may lead to logical contradictions, but logic is not necessary! Why are the laws of logic true? If we deny them, we can simply shrug our shoulders, because any supposed absurdities that are entailed are only problems if logic exists. The only ways to force us to believe that the laws of logic are necessary is to assume that they exist to begin with! ….Or, consider the option I am going to level against you in the next paragraph.

      You say that `God does not exist` is not a logical contradiction. Alright, let’s go along with that for a second. Have you ever heard of factual necessity? More or less, God exists in every possible world as a noncontingent, eternal, indestructible, incorruptible being. This is what WinteryKnight is defending.
      Here’s why I think that God is logically necessary:
      God grounds logic itself, because God is Truth. You may say that truth can’t be a person, but there is nothing to justify that argument. We will simply have to agree to disagree.
      Being Truth, God’s unchanging nature dictates what Truth is like. God does not contradict Himself, so Truth does not contradict itself; the law of noncontradiction has been established. The idea that God does not exist allows for contradictions to exist, which is impossible. God’s existence is logically necessary, QED.

      I ask for you to give actual proof that science and religion are in conflict. Until then, that assertion is not worth listening to.
      That you try to deny the causal principle entails that science and atheism are in conflict. Otherwise, you would not have tried to refute the causal principle, QED.

      Now is my turn to sigh, but I won’t. People who want to say that anything can exist inexplicably (God is not an example of this) don’t deserve sympathy.

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