10/27/2007

Another Round of Argumentation

I have followed with interest much of what Paul Davies has written on the subject of science and the origins of the universe. He certainly writes many things which I do not agree with, but he is often eloquent and intelligent. Here’s a sample of him confronting the notion of an eternal universe:

One evasive tactic is to claim that the universe didn't have a beginning, that it has existed for all eternity. Unfortunately, there are many scientific reasons why this obvious idea is unsound. For starters, given an infinite amount of time, anything that can happen will already have happened, for if a physical process is likely to occur with a certain nonzero probability-however small-then given an infinite amount of time the process must occur, with probability one. By now, the universe should have reached some sort of final state in which all possible physical processes have run their course. Furthermore, you don't explain the existence of the universe by asserting that it has always existed. That is rather like saying that nobody wrote the Bible: it was just copied from earlier versions. Quite apart from all this, there is very good evidence that the universe did come into existence in a big bang, about fifteen billion years ago. The effects of that primeval explosion are clearly detectable today-in the fact that the universe is still expanding, and is filled with an afterglow of radiant heat.

I have found this line of reasoning to be good reason for faith. There are scientific and philosophical reasons to believe in a beginning and a Personal Creator.

It is not possible to move through an infinite series of moments of time. For example, if time extends forward out to infinity then it is obvious we will never reach the end of it. Reversing the process, if time extends infinitely into the past, we could never have moved through time from the past to get to this moment.

(For an physicists reading this: the common understanding of time is used here as an analogy. The line of reasoning in the next paragraph follows no matter how you see time.)

Similarly, we cannot expect that an infinite regress of finite causes exists either. That is, if we move backward from ourselves to the things that caused us, then backward to the things that caused them and so on, we must find something that did not have a beginning. Otherwise, we would never have moved through the infinite series of finite causes to get to ourselves. The infinite regression of discrete, physical things cannot exist in reality.

Whatever the first cause in the chain was, it must have always been (it is “eternal”) and it must have the power to bring about all we see in the universe (a part of “omnipotence”). We know something of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” from the world we live in.

We can know more than that from the line of argument. This eternal cause existed when nothing else did. Nothing outside of this first cause caused it to act or influenced it’s action. It had to have the power to act in and of itself. Only a being with the power of choice fits this picture. The power to choose without any outside influence is the hallmark of a Personal Being. This cause must have a personality in the primary sense of the word.

Evidence of rational design provides the rest of the picture of a Personal God. Further, we have historically reliable accounts of Christ’s life found in the New Testament that provide evidence that this Personal God is not adverse to interaction with His creation.

These chains of evidence and argument are enough to convince any unbiased person of the Christian God’s existence. The problem is that we are not, when left to ourselves, unbiased.

8 comments:

that atheist guy said...

Regarding the other post, "Breakpoint 1", since you let me have the last word on my blog that other time, I'll let you have it this time. I didn't have much to add anyway.

I did enjoy this post here. It was a good summary of your line of reasoning. I also find the idea of an infinite regress of causes to be absurd. It seems that the only alternative is to have a first cause, but as you know from our previous discussions, I'm not ready to make any claims about the nature of that cause. I think that is the key point of our disagreement, and where our world views diverge.

J. K. Jones said...

Good to have another comment from you.

What is it about the nature of this first cause that you do not reach conclusions on?

What would you conclude about this first cause?

that atheist guy said...

Sorry, I missed your reply here. Now that Google has added this excellent "e-mail follow-up comments" feature that won't happen anymore!

To answer your question, I can't be sure there was a first cause, but I lean in that direction. I don't know anything about it though. It's really beyond my ability to even imagine. I have a hard enough time even understanding the current state of reality (quantum physics, cosmology etc.) let alone deep past mysteries.

I just remembered an interesting article where the author laid out all the various possibilities for the nature of the cosmos, from atheistic materialism to theism and all other variations. I think he covered all the bases, and it's an interesting read. I'll put the link here which still works as of today, but be aware it goes directly to a PDF file.

http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/skeptic13-2_Kuhn.pdf

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks again for your post, but the link does not seem to work. I’d love to have another to follow.

I hate to refer someone to a site where there are multiple choices, but you might find some of Norman Geisler’s articles at the site below to be helpful.

http://www.johnankerberg.org/Articles/archives-td.htm

Look for the one’s dealing with the nature of God, questions about other God’s, and questions about God. We can learn a lot from the cosmological argument.

Another resource is William Lane Craig. Here’s an address:

http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html

He has some other good articles at:

http://www.leaderu.com/menus/apologetics.html

Please always keep in mind that we have to deal with evidence for the resurrection as well. Here are two links:

http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html

http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786345/k.CE52/Jesus.htm

Still praying for you daily,

J. K.

that atheist guy said...

It looks like Blogger cut off the URL. I made a tinyURL of it, so this hopefully works:
http://tinyurl.com/2rztdw

Or try to paste this together:
http://www.skeptic.com/
the_magazine/featured_articles
/skeptic13-2_Kuhn.pdf

If that still doesn't work, let me know and I can e-mail a copy.

Thanks for the links. Actually I see one of yours got cut off here too, but I see the whole thing in the e-mail notification I got. I'll check them out.

J. K. Jones said...

I've printed the article.

I'll give it a read and get back to you.

J. K. Jones said...

In case you are still subscribing to comments on this post, I wanted you to know I did get a copy of the paper you mentioned on taxonomies of how the universe came to be. It deserves a series of posts I am currently placing on hold due to a lot of stuff to do that work.

I plan to write and make the posts sometime this year.

that atheist guy said...

Hi JK, yep I'm still out here! I still have your blog in my feed reader so when your post appears I'll see it. Thanks!

Currently I'm slowly working my way through the videos from the Beyond Belief 2 conference:
http://thesciencenetwork.org/BeyondBelief2/watch/

(If that's cut off, it's easy enough to find on Google.)

Sean Carroll had a good short talk on cosmology. Peter Atkins was interesting too. He's even more of a materialist/reductionist than me! Haha. I think he pissed off half the audience by calling philosophy a nuisance.

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