Posts Tagged 'Kalam'

Responding to a Christian’s Arguments for God

Hello everyone! In the comments on one of my previous posts, commenter sabepashubbo (I’ll call him Sabe) offered to give me his case for god, and I accepted by saying that I would blog about it. He dutifully emailed me his case for his god, and I haven’t found the time to respond (sincere apologies Sabe!). Now I’m on a 2+ hour flight, so it seems like a good time. And this way I think it will be better because I don’t have access to wifi up here in the air, so all of the responses will be mine alone whereas normally I may have used other peoples’ material in the formulation of my answers. I’m going to put Sabe’s entire email here so that you can read it in full if you wish, and my reactions will be in red.

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out. I feel like I ought to break this up into several parts, because each one can be dissected. However, as a whole, I feel like it makes the case for the existence of God not only compelling, but the most plausible perspective to have. Although I’m sure you’ve heard most of this before, I would love to see what questions you have and answer them to the best of my knowledge.

I would like to start with the Kalam cosmological argument. No doubt you’ve heard this one several times. I have indeed, and it has never been even remotely convincing to me. This deductive argument is as follows:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Well, there has to have been something, somewhere along the way that didn’t have a cause, that was just always here, right? So there is at least one thing that didn’t have a cause, whether that be God or the universe or the multiverse or whatever.
  2. The universe began to exist. Sure.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. Yup I suppose so.

Why did the universe begin to exist? Damned if I know! This is a logical conclusion based on the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which at its lay conclusion indicates that the universe is moving gradually to a state of non-existence. So if the universe has a definite end, it must naturally have a beginning, for nothing in the natural world has been shown to have an end without a beginning. Well I think we already pretty much know that our universe had a beginning and will come to an end, I don’t get what this has to do with godso far.

So what was responsible for this beginning? Don’t know…we can’t observe outside of our universe, so it’s kind of impossible to do anything other than theorize about what we think might have set the Big Bang in motion, isn’t it? Well, for starters we must look at what our universe is doing now. Thanks to Hubble, we know now that the universe is expanding. So if we use infinite regress and look backwards at our universe, it would collapse in on intself. So our universe must have some “ex nihilo,” or “out of nothing.” I’m no physicist or anything remotely resembling a physicist, but I believe they most commonly say that our universe was in one state, and then the Big Bang changed it into a different state. So it’s not that there was nothing and then something just popped into existence, rather there was something, and that turned into something else.

The question then becomes this, “Is this possible naturally?” The earliest cosmic event we know of is the Big Bang. Of course it was, because time began at the Big Bang. On a recent episode of the Atheist Experience they were talking about this, it was pretty entertaining – how since time began with the Big Bang it’s meaningless to talk about “before” the Big Bang…you should check it out. Sabe maybe you should call that show and try to make your case for God on the air! According to Wikipedia, “Without any evidence associated with the earliest instant of the expansion, the Big Bang theory cannot and does not provide any explanation for such an inition condition; rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the universe since that instant.” The Big Bang is not determined to be the beginning of everything, so that’s not the answer. But we do have it on pretty good evidence that the Big Bang did, in fact, happen. So what caused the Big Bang? We don’t know…yet! Although I have a more-than-sneaking suspicion that “I don’t know” isn’t acceptable to you – you need to fill in that gap with your god.

The best current scientific hypothesis is that “virtual” particles pop into and out of existence based on quantum fluctuations, and that this is what happened to create the Big Bang. However, there are several major flaws with this concept:

  1. If these are “virtual” particles, how can we determine their mass?
  1. How can virtual particles pop into and out of existence? Can’t this be explained justas easily as transfer of energy? How does nothing become something and then nothing agin, and why hasn’t this happened to our universe? And what does this say about mass that is no longer transferrable (e.g. black holes)?
  2. These current quantum fluctuations discussed are extremely minute exchanges. Like, inside of a proton minute. These fluctuations have not been determined to exist in larger such entities. The Big Bang at its very essence is the opposite of minute, so to say that these types of quantum fluctuations cause the biggest explosion in the history of the universe is a HUGE leap to make; a leap of faith exponentially larger than belief in any God, I would submit.

Honestly I don’t understand any of this. I’m not going to pretend to have any kind of notion of what quantum physics implies or what virtual particles are…my brain just won’t have any of it. It doesn’t penetrate my skull. But I’m going to stick up for the theoretical physicists and say that their hypotheses don’t require the faith that a god does, because they test their ideas using mathematics and by trying to see if they can make predictions based on their hypotheses.

So there are clearly issues with the current scientific view, though even leading scientists (e.g. Lawrence Krauss) still claim to have no answer to the question about how the universe began.

Yup Lawrence Krauss claims to have no answer to how the universe began – this is honest. Krauss doesn’t need an explanation. He’s fine with saying “I don’t know, lets wait and see.” As am I.

Now, theism (and specifically Christian theism) has put forth a view that the universe came from nothing, which is consistent with current science. Seriously? Theism is consistent with science? Give me a break. Science actually makes an effort to provide good, solid explanations for things and the Bible has a story that a child could writeabout how God did magic and voila! Universe! It’s not even on the same level. This view has been around for a minimum of 4,000 years, written in the Bible. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been around, it’s just a story in a book. There are religions older than 4,000 years, why is the Bible story more convincing or trustworthy? And this answer has gone unchanged throughout the course of human history. Whether the Bible is factual or not is not at play here; only that this theory was written down in it is relevant.

So if there is a viewpoint that lines up with the best current science we have, and has been around for 4,000 years, doesn’t that make it the most plausible worldview? No! It doesn’t line up with science, aside from the part about there being no universe one day, and a universe the next. Weak. The phrase I use often is this: An answer with some science is better than no answer with some science. I am not saying that you can never be an atheist; just that if you are using reason to place your bets with the most plausible worldview, you must be a theist until science is able to come up with conclusive evidence for a better answer. I submit that it will not happen. But based on the information we have today, theism is the best explanation for the existence of the universe.

I completely fail to see where you provided any argument that theism is the most plausible worldview. Why should I be a theist just because science doesn’t yet have all of the answers? I don’t see any value in supplementing gaps in knowledge with fairy tales.

Using things like the Kalam cosmological argument is just playing games with words. If you really want to show that your god is real, you’re going to have to gather up some real evidence. You believe that the Bible lines up with science, but I think you need to thing more critically about what the Bible actually says compared to the Big Bang theory. Why do you find the Bible to be such a reliable source of information? Why aren’t other holy books just as reliable in your eyes?

It would also be useful to know exactly what this god that you’re arguing for is. You need to come up with a definition for your god, because there are so many different ideas about what the Christian god is. What characteristics does this god have? How do you know this god has these characteristics? Are any of these characteristics testable? If so, have the tests been done?

I think that a good place to start would be why you started believing in the first place. I seriously doubt that Kalam made you realize that the Christian god is real, so what was it that convinced you that there is a god? Maybe that would convince me too?

I’m disappointed that all you really did in presenting your case for god was point out places where we don’t have all of the answers, and fill in those holes with your god. You didn’t provide good reasons why your god is a good fit for these unknowns in science, I wasn’t even able to get a sense of what kind of thing your god is. It seems like you’re arguing for a deist god with Kalam, but yet you’re a Christian. There’s a disconnect there.

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