Proving the Existence of God, Part 3

The first post in this series introduced the theme and possible positions regarding the existence of God. The second post then determined what would be considered as acceptable scientific evidence. Through that process we discovered that to scientifically prove God’s existence one cannot necessarily give positive evidence because there must always exist the possibility of being proved incorrect. In other words, scientific proof is actually never 100% sure. Rather than fall into the trap of giving an endless list of evidence in support of the existence of God, it is more prudent to take up the task of looking at those things which would demonstrate that God could not exist. The first of these is the universe.

Turning to the universe, the first question to answer is whether or not the universe has always existed or if it had a beginning? There is no middle ground because the universe exists, so it either had a beginning or it does not have a beginning. The atheists does not typically view the universe as coming from nothing but that it is self-evident and eternally exists. The theists argues this is not possible, as it would create an infinite regress of causalities. Dawkins argues in his book, The God Delusion, that invoking God to terminate an infinite regress is “at best unhelpful and at worst perniciously misleading.” The problem is not Dawkins’ statement but his explanation of why it is the case that it is unhelpful or misleading. He explains if one were to cut gold into its smallest possible pieces, then one could only slice it to the atomic level. Anything smaller than this and it ceases to be gold. The atom, therefore, acts as a “natural terminator to the Crumboblious Cutlets type of regress.” Dawkins’ argument is flawed however, because the regress that he cites does not explain an infinite regress. Furthermore, it deals with division of matter and not causal events so his explanation is not sufficient to do away with the need for a first cause, and he offers no explanation of how it is possible to have an infinite regress of causalities.

Infinities are not a problem when one speaks of them as possibilities or potentials only. The problem arises from following an actual infinity to its logical conclusion. Without a beginning, then there must necessarily exist an actual infinite number of events in the past. Problems abound when one begins to apply this with reason to reality.

One popular example is known as Hilbert’s Hotel. Suppose that there exists a hotel with an infinite number of rooms and all of the rooms are full. Whenever a new guest arrives and requests a room, the desk clerk happily supplies a room because there are an infinite number of rooms. Now after the guest checks in, there are no more people in the rooms than before he checked in the hotel—there are still an infinite number. Assume that all of the guests in the odd numbered rooms decide to check out and leave the hotel. After they all leave, there will still be an infinite number of rooms people in those rooms. One asks, “How can that be when half of them checked out?” Because there still exists the same number of rooms and people—that is an infinite number of people and rooms.

Another example is that of the eternal counter. Imagine there is a person who counts from infinity past to infinity future, starting in the past. He counts each individual day as a single integer. Now if one were to go to him today and he reached zero, the most likely question that person would ask is “Why did the counter reach zero today? Why not yesterday? Why not tomorrow?” The answer is because for an actual infinite number of past events to exist there has to equally be an infinite number of possible future events, so the counter always reaches zero.

Therefore, at any given point in time, the counter will reach zero. Even if one goes tomorrow, the next day, or in a hundred years, the counter will reach zero. Why is this? It is because of the nature of infinity and not because of the amount of time given to the counter. These absurdities demonstrate the problems associated with an eternal universe.

Science provides evidence that the universe had a beginning and it is, therefore, not eternal. The first source of evidence that the universe had a beginning was in 1929 when Hubble discovered redshifting in the light from other galaxies, which indicated that the universe is expanding. The natural inference was then made that if the universe is expanding, it was together at some point. This gave way to the theory commonly known as the Big Bang, which is the theory that the universe exploded from an extremely dense volume.

Another popular alternative is that the universe is eternally oscillating, that it goes through a cyclical series of explosion, expansion, contraction, explosion, etc. The second law of thermodynamics makes this alternative unreasonable because it explains things in a system move toward disorder or entropy rather than order. Some will counter that the second law does not apply to the universe, as it is not a closed system. However, this is not the case because the universe consists of all energy and so it is not receiving energy from any external source and energy cannot be created. An external source or the creation of energy would be necessary for an oscillating universe. Another problem arises if by chance the universe did collapse, it would not expand once again due to the extreme gravitational forces that it would have to overcome.

The beginning of the universe has posed somewhat of a problem to the atheist stance. Carl Sagan expressed it so succinctly it deserves quoting in full.

Now, what happened before that? There are two views. One is “Don’t ask that question,” which is very close to saying that God did it. And the other is that we live in an oscillating universe in which there is an infinite number of expansions and contractions.

Sagan believed that the singularity of the Big Bang necessitates the question “What happened before that?” He explained that the answer to the question is the universe oscillates and so the same thing happened before that. What is interesting about this statement is at the end there is a footnote to explain there is now evidence demonstrating the universe is actually accelerating in its expansion and so it will continue to expand indefinitely. This footnoted reference is confirmed in an article by James Glanz entitled “Accelerating the Cosmos” and was published in Astronomy in October of 1999. If the universe began and it is not oscillating, then the evidence supports, and does not contradict, the hypothesis that God exists.

Without an eternal universe, then the universe had a beginning. This means that the universe can no longer be a source of discrediting the existence of God. Now I know some of you will read this and say to yourself, “Mr. Hyde, you are forgetting that just because the universe had a beginning doesn’t mean that God brought it about.” I would agree with that statement. Just because the universe had a beginning doesn’t mean God exists, but it also could mean that God exists. Because the universe had a beginning, it simply is no longer a source of falsifying the existence of God. This leads right into the next point of falsification—evolution. Because the universe had a beginning, only two things are possible: (1) It brought itself about and developed into what we see today, which is evolution or (2) it was created, which is intelligent design. To this topic we turn to next.

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