10/04/2010

The Beginning

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.

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