11/29/2007

Stenger, Part 2

Here’s a second post on Victor J. Stenger’s book. I’ll focus on his idea of lack of structure at the universe’s beginning. I’ll then look at some of the implications of his interpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. (Stenger, Victor J. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does not Exist, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007)

He is clear and easy to understand here: “At [the beginning] the universe had no structure. That meant that it had no distinguishable place, direction, or time. In such a situation, the conservation laws apply.” (131)

Elsewhere he writes, “…an expanding universe could have started in total chaos and still formed localized order consistent with the second law [of thermodynamics].” (118)

First, as I have noted before, there may well be structure and order in the universe that we cannot yet identify. Vast complexity is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. The ever increasing body of knowledge held by science is apparent in history. We may just have more to learn.

Second, I have already discussed Stenger’s difficulties in identifying a lack of structure based on logic and observation. We must have an idea of structure to recognize a lack of structure. Just where did this idea come from? Are we to think that matter in motion gives us the power to identify logical / orderly patterns?

A quote Stenger shares is telling:

“The only laws of matter are those which our minds must fabricate, and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.” – James Clerk Maxwell (as quoted on page 113)



There is yet another problem. Citing a lack of order at the creation of the universe, Stenger postulates that the Second Law of Thermodynamics could still hold in a universe which is expanding, losing energy as a whole, but providing increases in energy or order within localized pockets. (117ff.)

If the universe is infinitely old, why hasn’t the usable energy completely wound down? (See here and here.) Stenger tries to get around this devastating question by appealing at several points to a universe that just appeared. He uses sophisticated language, but basically states it came in to being spontaneously from nothing. As R. C. Sproul is so quick to point out, nothing comes from nothing. Nothing is “no thing.” With no being, it cannot do or cause anything. (See this book and some of the quotes on this site.)

I could also cite Jonathan Edward’s discussion of the fact that “nothing” is incomprehensible. As soon as we define what nothing “is,” it begins to be something. We cannot think of nothing, so it cannot be an alternative to be evaluated against another idea. This is the ultimate proof of any truth: we cannot think of the contrary. Something must have always been here. (We could also discuss the implications of the incomprehensibility of nothing for the ontological argument, but that is really beyond this post. It is discussed here.)

All in all, Stenger’s book is worth a read. It will help a person “see into” the world of a scientist who holds firmly to atheism. It does not, however, present cogent arguments against God’s existence. The God Hypothesis does not fail. It is strongly affirmed by the logical interpretation of evidence cited by Stenger himself.

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