I don’t Believe in God, I Believe in Science!

I believe in Science not God

In the greatly enjoyable 2006 comedy Nacho Libre, there is one scene where Esqueleto a small and quite skinny man finds himself in a wrestling ring forced to fight another much bigger and taller man, or be beaten up by him. Just before the events continue, Nacho and Esqueleto engage in the following dialogue:

Esqueleto: I can’t wrestle him.

Nacho: But you’re tall and fast like a gazelle, you can do it. Pray to the Lord for strength.

Esqueleto: I don’t believe in God, I believe in science. (1)

It is this last line by Esqueleto which is really at the heart of what I want to focus on in this article. At the foundation, much of the debate in today’s contemporary world about God and science stems from this very idea that it is ‘God vs Science’; the more science we learn the less we need God as an explanation.

Most people (believers in God or not) will most likely be familiar with the term ‘God of the gaps’. What people might not know however, is where this idea stems from. You would think it stemmed from some scientist in the past who thought about this God vs Science conundrum and then pushed the concept forward…but no, it actually originates from a 19th century Scottish evangelical theologian named Henry Drummond. When he coined the concept, it was not meant to be an argument against God since he himself believed in God. The whole point of him creating the term was so that people in general could be made aware of the apparent separation, and then not fall into the trap of actually using it as an argument against God! That’s right, the main purpose of the ‘God of the gaps’ invention was so that it would not be used as an argument against God. So how have we gotten to a point in this era where this is now one of the most common arguments against God, especially as employed by high ranking scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss?

Well this brings me to another historical event which helps demonstrate why this thought is so captivating, although completely useless when applied logically to any situation. There is an account told (possibly apocryphal) about the 18th century French mathematician and astronomer Laplace in which Laplace presented his work to Napoleon, who asked him where God fitted in. Laplace replied to Napoleon by saying “I had no need for that hypothesis”.

Laplace’s reply is the same type of a reply that many non-believers in God will give (although worded differently) when confronted about a question to do with God and science. Within this mind-set, God is seen as a ‘God of the gaps’ explanation so that the more we find out about the universe the less we need God as an explanation. According to this idea, in our “evolutionary”(2) past, humans couldn’t explain much about the world and so they had to invoke god like beings to explain away phenomena like thunder and lightning (the Greek gods). Once however, we developed good science and figured out how those phenomena worked…poof, those gods vanished. So it’s basically the same thing with the God of the Bible today, we now know so much about the universe that God is simply irrelevant.

This sounds like such a conclusive argument, so it’s no wonder so many people fall prey to it and maybe feel comforted by it. However, ultimately it is very weak argument when analysed properly, and in order to show why this is, I will use none other than Ford cars to elaborate. (Oxford Professor of mathematics John Lennox alludes to this example all the time to make this same point).

Ford Cars, Science and God?

Imagine you own a Ford car, and after a while of use, the engine breaks down so you take it to the mechanics to have it fixed. Whilst there, you ask the local mechanic how exactly the engine works. At this point the mechanic delves into a very detailed and technical answer about internal combustion, and the four-stroke combustion cycle, and the tiny space for small explosions known as the piston for propelling the car etc. After this satisfying explanation, you then think about it all and proceed to ask the mechanic, “So how did the car come to exist in the first place?” The mechanic then replies by saying “Ah now that would be the work and brains of Henry Ford the creator of Ford cars.” Notice something very important here. Merely explain how the car worked did nothing to get rid of Henry Ford who is the explanation (the personal reason) for why the car exists in the first place. It is very easy to see that these two concepts – henry ford (the agent), and the laws of internal combustion (the process) – are not at war, but rather are complementing. If someone told you to pick one answer out of the two as an explanation of how Ford cars came to be, you would rightly tell them that that is a Ludicrous choice to try and make, both explanations are needed in order to give a complete account of the existence of the Ford car. (3)

Hopefully you are already able to see how this relates to the idea of science and God. Science is a method for explaining how things work (the mechanical explanation of the car), however God is the personal explanation for why there is a universe to study in the first place (Henry Ford). God and science not only do not compete, but cannot compete because they are in completely different categories. In philosophy, this type of mislabelling is called a category mistake: putting God under the umbrella of a scientific theory that can be done away with once a better theory comes along.

Genesis starts with the words “In the Beginning God created the heaven and the earth” This is to say that (as John Lennox puts it) “God is not a ‘God of the gaps’, he is the God of the Whole show.”(3a) He created the bits we do understand as well as the bits we don’t understand. To try to apply the ‘God of the gaps’ logic to the God of the Bible is to show a complete lack of understanding as to who the Biblical God is, not to mention it doesn’t even begin to address the issue of God at all because by definition, the concept doesn’t apply to Him.

Science and Religion in Conflict?

My reasoning so far is not meant to be used as conclusive evidence to show that God must exist. The point of this article is to expose the fallaciousness of the entire ‘God of the gaps’ argument against the existence of God. If we want to rightly source evidence for God’s existence, we can put forward the very same question that 17th century German philosopher Leibniz put forward when he asked the famous question, why is there something rather than nothing?

On an interesting final note, it is worth pointing out that another reason (amongst many more) why people seem to cling onto the notion of the ‘God of the gaps’ is because they think it supports the idea that science and religion have always been at war. Unfortunately, once again, this is simply not true. Almost all modern historians of science today now conclude that science and religion have never historically constantly been at war but rather that they have always complemented each other. Here are just a few quotes from professors and historians justifying this position.

 

  •  Historian of Science Edward Grant – speaking about the early Catholic Church:

What made it possible for Western civilization to develop science and the social sciences in a way that no other civilization had ever done before? The answer, I am convinced, lies in a pervasive and deep-seated spirit of inquiry that was a natural consequence of the emphasis on reason that begun in the Middle Ages(4)

  • Professor of Humanities Lawrence M. Principe:

The idea that scientific and religious camps have historically been separate and antagonistic is rejected by all modern historians of science(5)

  • Former Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University Peter Harrison:

Today, people are less confident that history moves through a series of set stages toward a single destination. Nor, despite its popular persistence, do most historians of science support the idea of an enduring conflict between science and religion…In fact, contrary to conflict, the historical norm has more often been one of mutual support between science and religion. In its formative years in the 17th century, modern science relied on religious legitimation. During the 18th and 19th centuries, natural theology helped to popularise science (6)

 

Referencing 

[1] IMDb. 2006. Nacho Libre. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457510/.

[2] I do not hold to the evolutionary account as being our true origins

[3] John C. Lennox. 2012. Not the God of the Gaps, But the Whole Show. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-god-particle-not-the-god-of-the-gaps-but-the-whole-show-80307/.

[3a] Ibid.,

[4] Woods Jr, T., 2012. How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. 1st ed. United States: Regnery History. [Edward Grant – p 66] 

[5] Lawrence M. Principe, Transcript book for lecture course Science and Religion (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2006), p. 23.

[6] Peter Harrison. 2017. Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it. [ONLINE] Available at: https://aeon.co/amp/ideas/why-religion-is-not-going-away-and-science-will-not-destroy-it.

 

Is Christianity a Blind Faith?

Is Christianty a Blind faithSceptics of the Bible ranging all the way from professors such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking right down the average layman, seem to have acquired a unified definition of what the word faith means when it comes to the Bible over recent decades. In essence the most common definition of the word you will hear is: Having faith in the Bible is believing in the truth of the Bible without any evidence to support it. Another simple way to word this is to use the term ‘Blind faith’.

To me this seems quite odd. Firstly, the Bible has the definition of the type of faith a Christian has/should have within it, in the book of Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1 which states that, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So it’s a bit of a straw man to redefine Christian faith as blind faith and then proceed to attempt to take it down based on that faulty assumption. Secondly, there are good historical and archeological evidences which heavily support the claims of the Bible to which even atheistic scholars such as Bart Ehrman and Gerd Luderman have attested to. Thirdly, many people might not realize, but there are at least five different definitions of the word faith that we humans can exhibit. What tends to happen in a back forth between a sceptic and a Christian is that when they both use the word faith in conversation, they define the word in almost opposite ways (in their minds) without realizing. The sceptic defines it in the context of “no evidence” whilst the Christian defines it in the context of “evidence”. Because they are unaware of this distinction between each other, the conversation can get quite heated, and both parties end up effectively talking past each other with no real progress. Ultimately speaking, definitions are key and it is always important to define exactly what you are talking about in order to minimize confusion when involved in an argument (argument in the philosophical sense which is just simply a dialogue between two or more people where premises and conclusions are presented and contested respectably between both sides).

So what are the five different definitions of faith?

  • Warranted faithThe type of faith that everyone exhibits. This is as simple as faith that when you sit down for example, your chair won’t break on you, or faith that when you go to drink tap or bottled water it won’t kill you, or faith that you will be able to drive to work every day without your car exploding on you. Warranted faith is essential to life and everybody alive, more or less, has to function with it.
  • Irrational faith – This basically means ‘faith even when the evidence is contrary to that position.’ For example, having faith that your friend is 25 years old when they are really only 20 years old and all the evidence (the person themselves, parents, birth certificate, school year…) shows that they are clearly only aged 20.
  • Blind faith – Blind faith is to have faith in something where there is simply no evidence for it. For example, the idea that aliens exist has no evidence to support it apart from wishful thinking due to the vastness of the universe. This type of faith in aliens by definition comes under the category of blind faith simply because there is no direct or indirect evidence for alien life in the universe to date.
  • Evidence based faith – This is simply to have faith in something because there is evidence to support it. For example, we have faith that the first president of the U.S. was George Washington because there is overwhelming historical evidence to support this idea. Or, we have faith in that the holocaust really did happen in the 20th century under the reign of Hitler (although some chose to believe that it did not – displaying irrational faith) because there is so much evidence to support this event.
  • Biblical faith – This is a bit of a different one as it only applies to those who take the Bible to be the Word of God. This faith only comes about as a result of being a follower of Christ. It is faith in the things of God and of what Jesus spoke about in the Bible, e.g. the spiritual realm and spiritual activity, the Biblical creation of the world, and eschatology (the end times – the events to come). As Christians, we can have faith in things of this manner only as given by Christ. A non-Christian would have no reason to exhibit faith in any of the same stuff.

With these definitions now in place it is easy to see which is which. The Christian faith falls under number four (Evidence based faith) and five (Biblical faith), not two or three as many assume. I don’t have enough time to go through actual points of evidence in this article however my other written articles Can We Really Trust the New Testament?Atheist Scholar Agrees that the New Testament is Reliable? give you a taste of some of the fundamental evidence that supports the case for the Bible being a historically reliable book.

Is Science Based on Faith?

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When someone is trying to prove a point (usually to do with the physical world), they will often refer to science by saying something along the lines of “it’s been scientifically proven that X is true.” After this is said, supposedly the case is settled unless there is some sort of evidence to the contrary. This points to the fact that today in current culture science has been venerated, and for clear reasons too – technological advancements (phones, space rockets, computers) – biological advancements (health care, genetics), the list could go on and on.

Great as this may be (and I am a huge fan of science), my one fear is that this sort of progress has led to a very biased approach towards how we view science. Many people have lifted science above all other fields of discipline such as, history, philosophy, art, politics and so on. The most extreme version of this bias comes in the form of scientism – the view that science is the only way to know truth – now this worldview is easily defeated (the statement itself cannot be scientifically tested and so if it is true…it is false), however, that isn’t my main focus here. I really want to focus on the concept of science and faith.

For clarification, when I say faith, I don’t mean it in the sense of religious faith in a creator (there are at least four different definitions of the word faith), I mean faith in the sense of warranted faith, the type of faith that everybody on earth exhibits on a daily basis whether they are religious or not in order to get through life. For example, when you go to drink water from the tap or a bottle, you do not conduct science experiment upon science experiment to determine if the water is clean to drink. When you are sleeping at night, you do not barricade yourself in your room for fear that a family member or friend will walk in and suddenly pull a knife on you in order to do you damage. The list runs deep but when we really take time to view how we live life, we realise that we really do exhibit a lot of faith, and that is what gets us through. The main question again I want to address is this: Is science based on faith?

Now before we get into this, we need to define the word faith. The English Oxford Living Dictionary defines faith as:

Complete trust or confidence in someone or something 

In this sense, we don’t necessarily have to include anything specifically religious at this point, we are just talking about having confidence and trust in something, and anybody is capable of that.

So, is science based on faith? Well on the surface, it seems that the answer is a clear NO, of course it isn’t. Science works via observation, testing, repeating and confirming results, it is in the business of strictly empirical findings. This would seem to be true, and it is! However, the question that I’m asking is not about what science does, but rather what it is based on…or in other words, what makes science possible? I will just focus on one topic below in order to try and help answer the question…mathematics (there are many more paths we could go down).

Mathematics, science and faith?

Science, especially the discipline of physics is based upon mathematics. Mathematics underpins science and seems to uphold it (in a sense). The problem here is that, mathematics – as any scientists will tell you – is law like, so much so that it is essentially referred to as “laws of mathematics”. In order for scientists to be able to land people on the moon, and to be able to send satellites into orbit around the world they have to utilise these laws of mathematics. The huge underlying questions however are: what are the laws of mathematics? Where did they come from? And why are they so consistent? Notice that scientists didn’t create and do no not uphold these laws of mathematics. Einstein knew this very well when he made the statement saying: “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?”[1]

The problem is that science is supposed to work empirically, however, the laws of mathematics are immaterial. E=MC2 is not something physical you can touch, it is an immaterial mathematical equation which helps us to understand the nature of mass and energy. Hopefully you are starting to see the big picture here.

Fundamentally, there is a major disconnect between ‘doing science’, and ‘knowing why science works’. The ‘knowing why science works’ part is something that is believed primarily by faith when it comes to truths such as mathematical laws. In fact, this topic cuts so deeply into the world of science that it caused Nobel Prize winning mathematician Eugene Wigner to write an entire paper entitled The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences. The last quote at the end of the paper is probably one of the most striking, and it puts a finger on Wingers central thoughts on the whole topic. Winger says that:

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.[2]

This to me is a bit like a statement of faith from Wigner, and this is not a bad thing! It is just simply an admittance that science does not contain all the answers, and furthermore, it is an admittance that science cannot even fundamentally account for why it works in the first place.

 

Science and Religion

With this now is mind, I think it is easier to show that the straight line that people tend to draw between science as being “empirical truth” and religion as being “based on pure faith” in not as easily marked as first thought. A few point to consider are that:

  • Faith is a concept that applies to everybody whether religious or not.
  • Science is based upon faith on mathematical laws (and we could extend this to faith in gravity, energy, and light as well since nobody in the world knows what any those things fundamentally are)
  • There are at least four definitions of the word faith (Warranted, blind, evidence based, irrational,) and so we must know which definition we are talking about when we speak about the word
  • Scientists have a fundamental faith in certain unexplainable phenomena just like religious people do. God’s existence cannot be explained by humans, but neither can the laws of mathematics, or gravity, or energy, both fields exhibit very large degree of trust…faith!

 

References:

[1] Max Jammer. 1921. Einstein and Religion, Princeton University Press,

[2] Eugene Wigner. 1960. THE UNREASONABLE EFFECTIVENSS OF MATHEMATICS IN THE NATURAL SCIENCES. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.maths.ed.ac.uk/~aar/papers/wigner.pdf.

According to Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick, Humans are Just Atoms in motion?

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“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”1

According to Richard Dawkins in his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian view of Life, humans are nothing more than chemical reactions, guided purely by genes acted upon by blind physical forces.

According to Francis Crick co-discoverer of the DNA molecule “you, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules… you’re nothing but a pack of neurons.”2

These are two very bold statements, and it seems you will find people on either side of the fence. Some will totally agree with this reductionist view of life, whilst some will abhor the very thought that humans could be reduced to essentially nothing.

I think firstly – as Professor of Science and Religion – Alister McGrath would say, we need to take both statements seriously. Whilst I don’t personally agree with the view of life portrayed by Dawkins and Crick, I completely and utterly respect them both as people and scientists, and so in challenging their opinions I want to do so respectfully.

Are Dawkins and Crick Correct?

Yes, it is possible that they are correct…however I don’t think the evidence points in favour of them being correct. Let’s take just three points below in order to unpack what I am suggesting.

  1. If Dawkins and Crick are correct, then morality is subjective

This is to say that if humans are nothing more than a ‘bag of neurons’, how do we decide what is right and wrong? A typical response is that “humans just know”, philosophically however, this is illogical and easily refutable; it doesn’t provide an answer at all and it barely even addresses the question at hand.

In this worldview (where there is no God), the human mind is the highest entity. This poses a huge problem because, which human mind decides what is morally acceptable? Theresa May? Trump? Hitler? You? Me? If one person decides that they want to go around stealing money off strangers, it has no bearing on someone else who decides that they want to go around giving strangers £50 notes. Remember, according to Dawkins there is “no purpose, no evil, no good” to life, everything is relative and so you cannot suggest in life what ‘OUGHT’ to be done, you can only suggest what ‘IS’. But then what do we do with all the war in the world, and murder, and rape and terrorism? Are all these things ‘not actually evil’? And what do we do with seemingly good things like charity, and selflessness? Are these things ‘not actually good’? Most likely any person with a degree of reasoning capacity would almost undoubtedly agree that raping and then murdering an innocent child is evil, however as soon as they do this they step outside of the Dawkins Crick subjectivism, into the theistic worldview of objectivism. In the theistic worldview, God is the moral standard who is above the human mind and so his commandments (which flow out of his nature) dictate right and wrong. In this way, you can say that certain things ARE right and wrong. However, anyone who ascribes to the Dawkins Crick view, must maintain that right and wrong and purely subjective (which I think is impossible to hold to), because there is no God – or in other words ultimate/objective standard. In this then objective morality seems to point away from this Dawkins Crick view of life.

  1. Humans innately have a deep sense of wonder and meaning. If Dawkins and Crick are correct, these senses are nothing but illusions

According to English writer Jeanette Winterson “We cannot simply eat, sleep, hunt, and reproduce – we are meaning seeking creatures.If the Dawkins Crick view is correct, then Jeanette is wrong as ‘meaning’ is just an illusory chemical component produced by our “selfish genes”. So, which view seems to be more evidentially based? Meaning seems to be embedded into the very fabric of human existence. Every morning that you get up out of your bed you are exhibiting meaning and purpose, every time you go to school, or university or work, or spend time with friends or family, you exhibit meaning. If meaning and purpose exited the world despair would be the only logical position available. Suicide has a strong correlation with a sense of meaninglessness. Professor of psychology Todd Kashan lists 5 signs that relate to suicide rates and amongst that list is ‘hopelessness’, the idea that it isn’t likely that things are going to get better.4

Philosopher Richard Rorty believes that meaning is entirely man made, he suggests that “We invent meaning – including our ideals of identity purpose and value”.5 There are a couple of problems with this view. Firstly, as I have already raised in the first point, who decides who’s meaning is correct? Another way to state it is, what happens when you have two directly conflicting ideals trying to occupy the same space? Survival of the fittest maybe? How do you adjudicate between the two since ultimately, it’s all relative? Secondly, logically and philosophically speaking, the very claim that meaning, purpose and value are subjective IS in itself an objective claim about meaning value and purpose. The phrase ‘we invent meaning’ is an objective claim about how meaning relates to human beings throughout all time and space, and so on the outset, this view is actually self-refuting as it doesn’t actually escape the objective view of meaning which it is trying to do.

A final point to make is on the concept of God and meaning. If there is a God, then there is a possibility of objective meaning to life as it is God who grants us life and the meaning to which we live. Now I think that there is strong evidence to support the existence of God such as the ‘Kalam Cosmological Argument’, the ‘Teleological Argument’ and the Argument from the longest piece of information known to man…DNA, (there is no time to go through each of these these here). If it is true that God does exist, then it lends much credibility to the correlation between faith and objective meaning/purpose. As C.S Lewis boldly maintained “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”6

3. If Dawkins and Crick are correct…then they are wrong

This is probably the most devastating blow against the Dawkins Crick view. The point again made is that if Dawkins and Crick are right, then they are wrong. So how is this possible? J.B.S Haldane was a British-born Indian geneticist, biometrician and physiologist who opened new paths of research in genetics and evolution. He summarized the fundamental issue with the Dawkins Crick view in a quote in which he says:

“If my mental processes are determined solely by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”7

If we understand what is being said here, Haldane points out the fact that the Dawkins Crick position is a self-refuting position from the get go. It can’t even get itself off the ground simply because of the fact that if the view turns out to be true, then it doesn’t just undermine the worldview of theism, it also undermines every single worldview known, including Dawkins and Crick’s own atheism. So, in attempting to prove their worldview, they actually end up disproving it in the end.

I think after going through these three points, it seems clearer that the evidence supposedly in favour of the Dawkins Crick view, is obsolete. Humans are meaning seeking creatures and when we take the evidence logically on board, it suggests to us that we are more than just “a pack of neurons”. We are bio-organism with a mind, a heart a soul and a spirit and all these components plus many more make up the complexity that is…the human being.

 

References

 

[1] Dawkins, RD, 1995. River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. 1st ed. United Kingdom: Basic Books

[2] Francis Crick, The astonishing Hypothesis: The scientific Search for the Soul. London: Simon & Schuster, 1994, 3; II

[3] Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? London: Vintage, 2012, 68

[4] Dr Todd Kashdan. 2017. Why Do People Kill Themselves? New Warning Signs. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/curious/201405/why-do-people-kill-themselves-new-warning-signs.

[5] Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press, 1982, xlii

[6] C.S Lewis, Essay Collection. London: HarperCollins, 2002, 197, 21

[7] J.B.S Haldane, Possible Worlds, 1927, p.209

The Contingency Argument – Reasonable Evidence for the Existence of God

 

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Why is there a universe? What caused it to come into being? Is the universe eternal? These are some of the most fundamental questions philosophers have been asking and attempting to solve for the last 2000 years. Many propositions and arguments have been put forward and I would like to focus on one that I have taken a particular liking to. This is known as the argument from contingency.

17th century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz asked the famous question, “why is there something rather than nothing?[1] Leibniz came to the conclusion that this explanation is rooted in God, but just how did he come to this?

Let’s look at this argument in terms of the premises and the conclusion.

The argument goes:

Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.

Premise 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

Premise 3: The universe exists.

Conclusion: Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

In order for the conclusion to be true, the premises all have to be true (this is known an as deductive inference).[2] Let’s look at premise 3 firstly. Premise 3 is certainly true; we can know for certain that the universe does exist and it is logically reasonable to conclude this, and so we have a solid answer here. How about premise 1? We run into what seems like a dilemma here when philosophers such as Bertrand Russell make the claim that “The universe is just there and that’s all.[3] Is this a reasonable assumption however? We will look at this later in more detail regarding the recent scientific evidence but for now let’s take a more philosophical and existential approach.

Human experience of life tells us that whenever we see an object or organism, we know that there must be an explanation for its existence, even if we never see that explanation with our own eyes. Size and chemical composition does not affect this law and so logically this concept of causation applies to the universe as well. If the universe does exist, then we need an explanation for its existence; an eternal universe is illogical.

We run into a supposed second issue at this point. Someone might ask the question, ‘If premise 1 is true, then does that not mean that God needs an explanation as well?’ If this were the case, then premise 1 would read, ‘Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence’. In phrasing the statement like this, it would be logical to ask the question of how God Himself came into existence since God is a thing, even if he is more abstract. At this point however, Leibniz makes a distinction between something existing contingently and something existing necessarily. These definitions are tied to the last part of premise 1, the section that reads, ‘either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.’  We must now define these two words before we can move on.

For something to exist contingently means that that thing has a cause for its existence; for example, the cause of a mobile phone’s existence is (initially) the thought of a human being followed by the action of the physical creation of the phone in the real world. For something to exist necessarily means that that thing exists by the necessity of its own nature, in other words, that thing exists independent of a cause.

Coming back to the claim made by Bertrand Russell. There is strong scientific evidence today which suggests that the universe certainly did have a beginning. For the most part of the last 2000 years almost everyone believed that the universe existed eternally. Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and much more recent scientists such as Fred Hoyle took this position. This stance seemed logical until about 100 years ago when a series of discoveries by men such as George Lemaitre, and Edwin Hubble involving the redshift of star light provided strong evidence that the universe might in fact have had a beginning at the big bang.[4a] [4b] This proposition cannot be established with full certainly due the fact that all of physics as we know it breaks down beyond the point of the big bang (quantum physics takes over at this point and it hosts an entirely new set of laws). Most scientists and philosophers today however agree with the view that the universe most probably did have a beginning; as Stephen Hawkins puts it, Almost everyone believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning”.[5]

Thus, we can conclude to within large degree of certainty that the universe likely exists contingently.

Now that we have established the nature of the universe, we again need to ask the question, why does it exist at all? It would be logically incoherent to say that the universe caused the universe to exist, since something that is contingent cannot cause itself to come into existence and human experience confirms this. The only adequate explanation therefore is that the universe must rely on a non-contingent being for its existence. This non-contingent being would need to exist necessarily in order to be able to create something like the universe.

What about our second premise, premise 2? In theory, there could be a range of explanations that seem to negate God as the primary cause. Under careful examination however, every one of these explanations fail in some aspect. The reason – as hinted at above – is that every other explanation can be boiled down to either something contingent in the universe, or something abstract within the universe such as a law like gravity. The problem here is that it is impossible for a contingent object within the universe to create the universe itself from nothing as this is self-refuting from the start. Similarly, universal laws are not known to create anything, they are useful explanations of universal phenomena in such a way that the human mind can comprehend (also known as the rational intelligibility of the universe), but they are not adequate explanations for origins in themselves.

To understand this point regarding universal laws and their roles within the universe, let’s take a common law such as gravity. Gravity is a force which causes anything with mass (such as planets) or energy (such as light) to be brought towards each other, or bent (light bends, whereas objects attract). Notice however that gravity does not cause the initial creation of matter. Gravity has never been observed to create anything from scratch, it has only ever been observed to act on an already existing body or type of radiation (light). Similarly, the laws of mathematics do not have the capacity to create money from scratch however, we use it as a basis for physics and maths itself. Einstein puzzled with this concept as well; his thoughts were summed up in a statement when he asked, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?[6]

The only viable explanation for the cause of the universe would need to tick very specific boxes: It would have to exist necessarily, it would also need to be timeless, spaceless, immaterial and extremely powerful. These descriptions come together perfectly in the form of God, the only plausible explanation for the cause of the universe.

Although not all will agree with premise 2 and the conclusion, in my view the argument is sound. If one logically follow through the steps in accordance with the evidence presented, it becomes clear that the only reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe is God.

With this we can now close by answering Leibniz’s philosophical question, why is there something (a universe) rather than nothing? The answer is: because God created it.

Referencing:

[1] Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. (1714). The Principles of Nature and Grace, Based on Reason. 7

 

[2] Okasha, S. (2016). Philosophy of Science: Very Short Introduction (very Short Introductions). 2. Oxford University Press. [p16]

 

[3] Fr. Copleston vs. Bertrand Russell. January 28th, 1948. BBC Radio Debate on the Existence of God

 

[4a] Dr. William Lane Craig. (1992). The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe. Available: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-existence-of-god-and-the-beginning-of-the-universe.

 

[4b] Clarification: I myself do not hold to the Big Bang as a valid origins explanation, however, for the purposes of this argument I am adopting this view as it is the consensus within current mainstream science. Also it defends my position regarding a necessary creator for universe.

 

[5] [Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. (1996). The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [p. 20.]

 

[6] Max Jammer. (1921). Einstein and Religion, Princeton University PressFirst blog post