Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Was the universe caused by natural or supernatural means?

Was the universe caused by natural or supernatural means?There are two types of explanation for the origin of the universe. These are either natural or supernatural. The natural explanation says that the universe is a product of the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time. It may also assume that the universe is part of a larger ‘multiverse’ that creates new universes (Appendix A).

The supernatural explanation says that the universe was created by something/someone beyond the laws of nature or something miraculous. It is not defined by space-time, matter and energy nor the laws of physics. Which type of worldview offers the best explanation?

This post is based on J Warner Wallace’s book, “God’s crime scene”.

Why is there a cause?

Is it possible that the universe doesn’t have a cause? There are two main reasons behind the need for a cause of the universe: science and logic.

The big bang theory of the universe says that the universe had a beginning (Appendix B). An inflating universe has a beginning at some finite time in the past (the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem). The big bang theory superseded the steady-state theory of the universe which assumed that the universe was eternal without a beginning or an end. In the steady-state model the universe is expanding, but matter is being continuously created to keep the mean density of matter in space constant. So instead of a beginning, it has continual creation of matter! The steady-state theory was attractive to atheists because it had no “creation event”. But the theory of an eternal, steady-state universe, with no origin in time has been replaced by the big-bang theory as the atheist’s creation story.

The Kalam cosmological argument says:
1. Everything that begins to exist (or has a beginning) has a cause of its existence. This is the law of cause and effect – every effect has a cause.
2. The universe (and the multiverse, if it exists) began to exist (had a beginning). This is part of the big-bang model. In fact, all scenarios for the origin of nature require a beginning (Grossman, 2012).
3. Therefore, the universe (and the multiverse, if it exists) has a cause of its existence.

And the philosophy of infinite regress demonstrates that time (and our universe) had a beginning (Appendix C).

In summary, “everything that has a beginning has a cause”. This means that the universe (and the multiverse, if it exists) must have a cause. But if something or someone is eternal (like God), it doesn’t have a beginning and so doesn’t require a cause.

The facts to be explained

Some of the facts that need to be explained by the cause of the universe may be divided into four categories.

Cosmological

  1. Our universe had a beginning – space, time, matter and energy came into existence from nothing. This is the ultimate reason for our existence – why something exists rather than nothing. Before the beginning, there was no time, no space, no matter, and no energy.
  2. Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for conscious life – it appears to be designed. This fine-tuning occurs on scales from the subatomic to the galactic (see Appendix D). All the variables are set up in order to support life on earth.

Biological

  1. Life on earth emerged from non-life. The origin of life from inorganic matter.
  2. Biological organisms appear to be designed. For example, the existence of information in DNA molecules.

Mental

  1. Non-material consciousness emerged from unconscious matter. The existence of consciousness. Our mind is intentional as our thoughts are focused on something.
  2. Humans are “free agents” in an otherwise “cause and effect” world. Existence of free will.

Moral

  1. Universal, objective moral truths exist. For example, “It’s never OK to torture babies for the fun of it”. Even those who accept evolutionary naturalism still act as if objective moral truths exist. For example, they probably support social justice issues.
  2. Evil and injustice continue to persist, in spite of our best efforts.

Which cause is the best explanation of these eight facts (or pieces of evidence) of the universe?

Is there a natural explanation?

The natural explanation says that the universe is a product of the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time. Is this a reasonable cause for the cosmological, biological, mental and moral facts? We will examine each of these eight facts in turn.

  1. The naturalistic explanation of the universe is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat - except there is no magician and no hat!The creation of space, time, matter and energy from nothing requires a cause that is spaceless, timeless, immaterial, enormously powerful and uncaused (a timeless entity cannot be caused) itself. And the creating agent must be greater than the universe. But this rules out a naturalistic explanation. There is no natural way for the universe to emerge from nothing. That idea is outside the realm of science. But that hasn’t stopped people speculating that the universe began to exist without a cause (which is outside the law that everything that begins to exist has a cause) or redefining the meaning of “nothing” or speculating about the existence of other universes (Appendix A). For example, cosmic inflation and the big bang is said to come from quantum fluctuations. But how do the quantum fluctuations come from nothing? Science can’t answer that question.

Magicians used to pull rabbits out of hats. It appeared as though the rabbit was created out of nothing. In this way it’s like the naturalistic cause of the universe – except there is no magician or hat in existence before the beginning of the naturalistic universe!

  1. The apparent design and fine-tuning for conscious life of the universe requires a cause that is purposeful. But physical processes alone can’t produce a universe that appears to be designed. They are not purposeful. And the regular laws of physics and chemistry that govern the way the universe works can’t arise from random processes. They are not an accident or due to chance.

The concept of other universes has been proposed to explain how our universe appears to be fine-tuned for conscious life without the need for intelligent design. But this idea is science fiction. Paul Davies says it’s contradictory and absurd (Appendix A)!

The existence and applicability of the laws of mathematics and the laws of logic to our universe have been discovered. They are not a human invention. Without them science and reasoning would be impossible. But they can’t be explained by naturalism either.

  1. The origin of life requires a cause that is intelligent. But the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time are not intelligent. There is no natural way for life to arise from inorganic matter. In fact, it can’t even be done by intelligent scientists! And it they ever succeed in creating life, it will show that a lot of intelligence is required – something that is lacking in the naturalistic explanation of the universe. For example, why does life only use left-handed isomers of amino acids for its protein chains and not right-handed ones?

The Ancient Greeks believed that living things could spontaneously come into being from nonliving matter. But in 1862 Louis Pasteur demonstrated that life does not arise in areas that have not been contaminated by existing life. This was summarized as “all life is from life”. But the idea that life can come from non-life has been resurrected. No one knows how this could happen without the input of an intelligent designer, but some assume it is possible by the means of chemical and molecular evolution.

  1. The apparent design in biology and the immense amount of complex information in DNA requires a cause that is creative and resourceful. But the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time are not creative and resourceful. How can physics and chemistry produce the high-level information we find in DNA? Even if naturalistic processes could produce the hardware of living creatures, they couldn’t produce the software of living creatures, such as the mind and the DNA code.

One of the most famous atheists of his generation, Antony Flew, held a naturalistic view of the universe. He was an accomplished philosopher who debated Christians and wrote several classic books defending atheism. But when he examined the evidence of DNA, he changed his mind. He found that the level of genetic information in DNA simply could not be explained without an intelligent author/Creator.

  1. The existence of consciousness requires a cause with a conscious mind. But the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time don’t have a conscious mind. So they can’t produce the consciousness we experience. A personal attribute can’t be produced by impersonal quantities.

Alchemists believed that lead could be transformed into goldIn the Middles Ages, alchemists believed that lead could be transformed into gold. They also sought a universal cure for disease, and a means of indefinitely prolonging life. But the gold-making processes of alchemists were discredited in the 19th century. However, it looks like alchemy is being revived in the belief that personal attributes can be produced by impersonal quantities!

  1. The existence of free-will requires a cause that is free to choose and create purposefully. But the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time are not free to choose and create purposefully. So they can’t produce the free agency (choice) we experience. A personal attribute can’t be produced by impersonal quantities. As noted above, that is like alchemy.
  1. Objective moral truths require a cause that is a source of moral truth. But the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time are not a source of moral truth. So they can’t produce objective, moral laws and obligations. A personal attribute can’t be produced by impersonal quantities. As noted above, that is like alchemy.

Some might say that all morality is subjective (and none is objective) and so you cannot impose your personal morality on other people. But this is self-refuting because when they say, “you cannot impose your personal morality on other people” they are imposing their own objective moral code on other people! They are describing, in absolute terms, the nature of morality as relative. But morals can’t have an absolute character if they are entirely relative. This is inconsistent.

  1. Evil and injustice require a cause that is a source of the standard for good by which we define evil. But the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time are not a source of the standard for good by which we define evil. Once again, a personal attribute can’t be produced by impersonal quantities.

Inference

From above, the natural explanation which says that the universe is a product of the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time fails to explain these eight facts about the universe. And it can’t explain where the universe (and the multiverse, if it exists) came from; or what caused cosmic inflation or where matter and energy came from or what caused the laws of physics. So naturalistic explanations can’t explain the origin of the universe. This shows that the universe can’t cause itself. Instead, it needs an outside cause.

Furthermore, nature can’t cause itself, because then it would have to exist before it came into existence! That is nonsense. It’s absurd if something existed before it brought itself into being! According to the rules of logic, the cause of nature cannot be natural. Nature would have to pre-exist itself so that it could be causally prior to itself. And that idea is absurd.

Nevertheless, those with a naturalistic worldview often have faith that naturalistic explanations will be found for each of the eight facts.

Is there a supernatural explanation?

The supernatural explanation says that the universe is a product of something beyond the laws of nature or something miraculous that is outside the physical universe. Is this a reasonable cause for the cosmological, biological, mental and moral facts?

  1. The creation of space, time, matter and energy from nothing requires a cause that is spaceless, timeless, immaterial, enormously powerful and uncaused (a timeless entity cannot be caused) itself. And the creating agent must be greater than the universe. This is consistent with a supernatural cause.
  2. The apparent design and fine-tuning for conscious life of the universe requires a cause that is purposeful. A universe in which life is impossible is more likely than one that permits it. This is consistent with an intelligent supernatural cause.
    And the existence of and the applicability of the laws of mathematics and the laws of logic to our universe is consistent with an intelligent supernatural cause.
  3. The origin of life requires a cause that is intelligent. This is consistent with a supernatural cause.
  4. The apparent design in biology and immense amount of complex information in DNA requires a cause that is creative and resourceful. And information always comes from the mind of an intelligent being. This is consistent with a supernatural cause.
  5. The existence of consciousness requires a cause with a conscious mind. This is consistent with a supernatural cause.
  6. The existence of free will requires a cause that is free to choose and create purposefully. This is consistent with a supernatural cause.
  7. Objective moral truths require a cause that is a source of moral truth. The best explanation for universal, objective, moral laws and obligations is the existence of a universal, objective and personal moral law giver. The objective moral truths come from the mind of the lawgiver. This is consistent with a supernatural cause.
  8. Evil and injustice require a cause that is a source of the standard for good by which we define evil. This is consistent with a supernatural cause. The personal moral law giver sets the standard for good.

Inference

From above, the supernatural explanation which says that the universe is a product of something beyond the laws of nature or something miraculous that is outside the physical universe can explain these eight facts about the universe. The characteristics of this cause are spaceless, timeless, immaterial, enormously powerful, uncaused, greater than the universe, purposeful, intelligent, creative and resourceful, a conscious mind, free to choose and create purposefully, a source of moral truth, and a source of the standard for good by which we define evil. Because it’s a conscious mind who is the source of moral truth, this cause can’t be an impersonal force or a machine.

Discussion

The supernatural explanation provides a more plausible explanation for the eight facts about the universe than the natural explanation.

The characteristics of the supernatural cause indicate a divine being who is consistent with the God of the Bible. He is the intelligent designer and the uncreated creator of the universe. And morals are based on the nature of God – they are an expression of His divine nature.

The Bible says that God is great and God is good. And we see glimpses of God’s greatness and goodness in the eight facts about the universe listed earlier.

In Psalm 104, the ancient Hebrews praised God as the creator and sustainer of the universe. And in particular,
“How many living things you have made, O Lord [God]!
You have exhibited great skill in making all of them;
the earth is full of the living things you have made” (Ps. 104:24NET).

Conclusion

We have seen that the supernatural explanation of the universe is superior to the naturalistic explanation. And the supernatural cause is consistent with the God of the Bible. The eternal creator God is the best explanation of the eight attributes (facts) of the universe.

God’s existence is the most reasonable inference from the cosmological, biological, mental and moral evidence in our universe.

Appendix A: The theory of a multiverse

The multiverse is a hypothetical group of multiple universes. The different universes within the multiverse are called “parallel universes”, “other universes”, “alternate universes”, or “many worlds”. The multiverse is the idea that our universe is a small part of a larger structure that contains many universes. It’s an attempt to explain the universe we see by appealing to an infinite number of universes that we don’t see. But, like God, it’s beyond the realm of science. Physicists are divided about whether any other universes exist outside of our own.

The concept of other universes has been proposed to explain how our universe appears to be fine-tuned for conscious life without the need for intelligent design. These other universes are unobservable, as otherwise they would be included in our universe. If the multiverse exists, the life-hosting capability of our particular universe isn’t such a mystery: An infinite number of less hospitable universes also exist. The composition of ours, then, would just be a happy coincidence. The idea is that there’s nothing particularly special about our “Goldilocks” universe: it is simply one of a (possibly infinite) number of universes, all with different initial conditions, constants, and laws. Most will be inhospitable, but it should come as no surprise to find ourselves in a universe which isn’t.

The idea of the multiverse is based on the assumption that the earth, the sun, the milky way or any location doesn’t occupy a special position in the universe. The multiverse goes a step farther and claims that there’s nothing special about our entire visible universe! In this model it is assumed that our universe was caused by a larger ‘multiverse’ that creates new universes.

Parallel universes appear in role-playing games like "Dungeons & Dragons"Parallel universes are used in science fiction. Marvel Comics and DC Comics feature stories set in parallel universes that are part of the multiverse. Parallel universes appear in role-playing games such as “Dungeons & Dragons”, “BioShock Infinite”, the “Final Fantasy” franchise, “Half-Life”, “League of Legends”, “Mortal Kombat” and “The Legend of Zelda”. But all these are fiction, and not fact. Likewise, the concept of a multiverse or parallel universes is more science fiction than science.

According to Paul Davies

A multiverse is often presented as solving the mysteries of existence by assuming that if there are an infinite number of universes, then “everything is out there somewhere, so that’s the end of the story”. Paul Davies, a physicist of Arizona University, says “That is not true”. “All theories of the multiverse assume quantum physics to provide the element of spontaneity, to make the bangs happen. They assume pre-existing space and time. They assume the normal notion of causality, a whole host of pre-existing conditions.” Davies said there are about “10 different basic assumptions” of physical laws that are required “to get the multiverse theory to work.” “But where did all these laws come from”? “The only thing the multiverse theory does is shift the problem of existence up from the level of one universe to the level of multiple universes”. “But you haven’t explained it.”  He dismissed the idea that “any universe you like is out there somewhere. I think such an idea is just ridiculous and it explains nothing. Having all possible universes is not an explanation, because by invoking everything, you explain nothing.” He doesn’t believe that all possible universes exist and that the explanation of the universe that we see is because everything imaginable exists. That’s contradictory and absurd.

The big-bang theory is a hypothetic model of the universe that has huge fudge-factors!Appendix B: The big bang theory

The big-bang theory is a hypothetic model that was developed to explain the universe using only the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time. It the assumes that the universe started in a hot, dense state and has been expanding over time since then. And it assumes that the distribution of matter throughout the universe is homogeneous (uniform) and isotropic (the same in all directions). According to the Big Bang model, the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old.

The process begins when a “quantum fluctuation” produces the matter and energy of the future universe, which then goes through a brief period of “inflation”. This inflation produces “flatness” in the energy distribution and prevents the universe from collapsing in on itself. After stars form, “dark matter” is required to explain the shape of galaxies and “dark energy” is required to explain the apparently accelerating expansion of the universe. The cosmic microwave background radiation is the afterglow of the post-inflation fireball, but the light is extremely red-shifted (to a longer wavelength; red is at the end of the visible spectrum) due to the stretching of space.

Because the big bang theory doesn’t match observations, it contains “fudge factors”. “Dark matter” and “dark energy” are postulated to make up 95% of the mass-energy of the universe! But neither of these have been observed directly. That’s a huge fudge! It shows that the universe is too complex to be explained by current theoretical physics.

Appendix C: The philosophy of infinite regress

Philosophers have pointed out that there cannot be an infinite number of events going back into the past (sometimes referred to as a problem of infinite regression). If there were to be an infinite number of events in the past, the events leading up to today would never occur and we would never get to today. Since we obviously exist in the present (today), there must have been a finite, limited number of events in the past.

Appendix D: Examples of fine-tuning in the universe

The foundational, regional, and locational conditions of our universe, solar system, and planet are delicately balanced and finely calibrated for conscious life. Some examples of these are given below – and there are many more. The slightest modification of these conditions would be disastrous for life.

Foundational

– The strong nuclear force, which binds the atomic nucleus.
– The weak nuclear force, which governs radioactive decay.
– The electromagnetic force, which binds the atom.
– The gravitational force, which binds the solar system, star and galaxies.

Slight modifications to any of these forces would mean that the universe would be incapable of supporting life.

Regional

– The shape of the milky way.
– The position of the milky way.
– The size of the milky way.
– The position of our sun.
– The composition of our sun.
– The age and mass of our sun.
– The relationship of the planets to our sun.

Locational

– The earth’s relationship to the sun.
– The earth’s atmospheric conditions.
– The earth’s terrestrial nature.
– The earth’s relationship to the moon.

References

Grossman L, 2012, “Death of eternal cosmos: From the cosmic egg to the infinite multiverses every model of the universe has a beginning”, New Scientist, 213, 2847, 6-7.
Wallace J W, 2015, “God’s crime scene: A cold-case detective examines the evidence for a divinely created universe”, David C Cook.

Acknowledgments

This post is based on J Warner Wallace’s book, “God’s crime scene” and helpful discussions with Tom Murphy.

Written, January 2021

Also see: Two big bang miracles

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