The multiverse theory merely “kicks the problem upstairs”

November 13, 2013

A Facebook friend linked to this blog post from a Wesleyan pastor named Matthew Rose about a recent Stephen Hawking speech. Hawking says that we can explain the apparent design of the universe—which he at least concedes is a potential problem for atheists like himself—by resorting to the theory of the multiverse: that our universe is one of a nearly infinite number of universes, which have no physical continuity with one another.

Why does Hawking think that this helps his cause? Because he believes it explains our universe’s apparent fine-tuning. In other words, there are a number of physical constants in the universe, which, if they varied even slightly, would prevent the formation of life. (When I say slightly, I mean slightly. Click here for more on the fine-tuning argument.) If, however, a nearly infinite number of universes exist, then at least one of them—fortunately, ours—is bound to have these seemingly finely-tuned constants. Lucky for us!

Rev. Rose writes:

Take a second to think about the move Hawking is making here. To avoid belief in an invisible God, Hawking is willing to believe in the existence of a near infinite amount of universes that he can’t see or observe. Not only does this require far more faith than most any religious system… it also doesn’t happen to explain the origin of the universe, which was the whole purpose of the lecture! Indeed, it multiplies the problem. If you thought it was hard to explain the origin of one universe… try explaining a billion or more!

He’s right. Keep in mind: If all these universes are physically discontinuous with our own (and if they aren’t discontinuous, then there’s still only one universe; it’s just larger than we thought), what on earth can a scientist possibly say about them—as a scientist, I mean, speaking scientifically? Absolutely nothing.

Hawking is free to believe in a multiverse if he wants, but he’s not doing so on scientific grounds. He has left the realm of physics and entered metaphysics. Again, that’s fine. But the reason we care about what Hawking has to say in the first place is that he’s a brilliant physicist, not a brilliant metaphysician or philosopher. Belief in a multiverse is purely a leap of faith.

But even if Hawking is right about the multiverse’s accounting for the fine-tuning of our universe, what about the mechanism that generates the multiverse itself? How finely tuned does it have to be in order to produce nearly infinite numbers of universes such that it produces our universe? And what accounts for that fine-tuning? I posted the following on Facebook in response to my friend (click to enlarge):

brent_fb

As William Lane Craig says, if the mechanism that generates the multiverse is itself fine-tuned, then Hawking is merely “kicking the problem upstairs.”

Now this recourse to the World Ensemble [or multiverse] will be in vain if it turns out that the mechanism that generates the World Ensemble must itself be fine-tuned, for then one has only kicked the problem upstairs. And, indeed, that does seem to be the case. The most popular candidate for a World Ensemble today, the inflationary multiverse, does appear to require fine-tuning. For example, M-theory, the theory which supposedly governs the multiverse, works only if there are exactly eleven dimensions—but it does nothing to explain why precisely that number of dimensions should exist.

Beyond fine-tuning, the main question that Hawking’s multiverse theory can’t answer is “why something and not nothing.” Hawking appears to make a philosophical mistake here. Nothing means nothing—not gravity, not a vacuum, not energy, no sort of milieu in which a Big Bang of any kind can take place. For him, however, “nothing” means “space filled with vacuum energy.” I don’t know from vacuum energy or quantum gravity or whatever else he talks about, but I know that these things are still something. And the question remains, why? Here’s Craig again, referring to the book Hawking co-authored last year:

Hawking and Mlodinow seem to realize they have not yet answered the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” They return to this question in their concluding chapter and give a quite different answer. There they explain there is a constant vacuum energy contained in empty space, and if the universe’s positive energy associated with matter is evenly balanced by the negative energy associated with gravitation, then the universe can spontaneously come into being as a fluctuation of the energy in the vacuum (which, by a clever sleight of hand, they say “we may as well call … zero”).

This seems to be a very different account of the universe’s origin, for it presupposes the reality of space and the energy in it. So it is puzzling when Mlodinow and Hawking conclude, “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing in the manner described in Chapter 6” (page 180). Here it is said that the nothingness spoken of in Chapter 6 is not really nothingness after all but is space filled with vacuum energy.

Finally, here’s what is potentially most tragic: Stephen Hawking would be on our culture’s short list of “world’s smartest person.” (If Einstein were still alive, Hawking would probably finish second.) Given that most people’s skepticism doesn’t result from carefully reasoned arguments, most skeptics will hear that the “world’s smartest man” has proven that God doesn’t exist, and think, “Well, that’s settled, then!”

By the way, years ago I read an article about our culture’s veneration of Einstein. We mistakenly believe that if a person is a genius in one field of learning, he is therefore a genius in all fields of learning. This popular belief doesn’t correspond to current research about geniuses.

So, if it makes you feel any better, while Einstein was a genius in physics, he—along with all other geniuses, Hawking included—was about as dumb as the rest of us in all other parts of his life. Therefore, when geniuses say something outside of their specialty, their words, in principle, shouldn’t carry more weight than anyone else’s.

This applies to Hawking’s metaphysical musings.

29 Responses to “The multiverse theory merely “kicks the problem upstairs””

  1. Robert WIlliams Says:

    I have no problem whether there is one or more universes. The character of God is balance. Look at nature here on Earth. It is balanced in the very nature of its creation: even the supposed 11 required universes represents balance. Balance is WISE and God is the highest in Wisdom. Without balance, nothing would exist since the strongest element would conquer all and then the winner would itself be conquered because it destroyed the balance which permitted it to survive: everything requires SOMETHING to exist. Since there is truly NOTHING that is empty out there (even a vacuum is a vacuum), all things are balanced beyond our understanding at present. We will never be as Wise as God but we that believe will one day SHARE in his wisdom of all things …. AMEN

  2. Tom Harkins Says:

    Atheistic “scientists” are willing to believe or posit absolutely ANYTHING to avoid there being any God. With no proof of what they posit whatsoever. Indeed, frequently CONTRARY to the generally accepted other laws of science. Such as, the laws of gravity and thermodynamics and relativity (speed of light as maximum) when it comes to the Big Bang. Or no spontaneous generation when it comes to the origin of life on earth. Etc. I believe Richard Dawkins surmised, while being interviewed in conjunction with the movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” that possibly ALIENS could be responsible for life on earth. Aliens! With obviously no proof whatsoever. This simply proves, to me at any rate, that the whole “theory” of “evolution” is just a subterfuge to keep people from believing in a Creator God with whom they have to deal.

  3. Robert WIlliams Says:

    After-thought … Science assigns terminology to the unknowns: Zero Point Energy, Dark Matter, Hyper Cube and String Theory … etc. These things are theorized according to our ever expanding database of Mathematics. Man is truly seeking the origin and nature of God whether he realizes it or not. God and God alone is the master algorithm from which all things were conceived and balanced.

  4. Robert WIlliams Says:

    Hebrews 11:1

    King James Version (KJV)

    11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now I can rest … 🙂

  5. Morbert Says:

    A couple of comments.

    The multiverse is speculative, but it is not purely speculative. Nor was it conjured up by atheist philosophers as an ad hoc counterpoint to theists. Instead, the multiverse hypothesis is motivated by quantum mechanics, which describes a “multi-” quality that exists for any dynamical variable. For example, by assuming quantum particles take every possible path available to them, modern quantum field theory tenders the most accurate predictions of physical phenomena known to science. (See link at the bottom of this post for examples.) You are reading this message on a computer that accommodates this multi- quality of electrons, and quantum computers that exploit this quality are around the corner (Imagine computers with bits that could be both 0 and 1 at the same time!). The multiverse hypothesis emerges from the application of quantum mechanics to the gravitational field. It is only incidental that it has become relevant to philosophers and theologians. I would also say that we have precedent. Just as the Earth, or our solar system, or our galaxy were discovered to not be alone, so too might it be true for the region of space we call the universe.

    To be clear, I am not arguing that the multiverse is true. I am merely arguing that it is not a fantastical contrivance, and it is grounded in well-established physics.

    But more importantly, I do not think this kicks the problem upstairs. We will always be able to ask why perpetually. Why is there a universe rather than nothing? Why is there a multiverse rather than nothing? Why is there a God rather than nothing? Instead, the multiverse is a counter to the claim that our universe implies a God.

    Also, Tom: Both the Big Bang and Darwinian evolution are entirely compatible with all the known laws of physics, including thermodynamics and relativity.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_tests_of_QED

    • brentwhite Says:

      OK, I see what you mean about the multiverse’s not being a “fantastical contrivance.” But as long as those “why” questions exist, it’s not clear to me how it’s not kicking the problem upstairs.

      At the beginning of the multiverse, was there a mechanism that set things in motion? Is that mechanism somehow more likely or probable than the beginning of our universe assuming there isn’t a multiverse?

      I can’t see how the answer to that question isn’t “no.”

      • Morbert Says:

        When Craig says “it [Hawking’s explanation] presupposes the reality of space and the energy in it.”, he is more or less right. Hawking’s quantum gravity is ultimately an empirical explanation for how, given some presuppositions, the universe emerged.

        But presuppositions are impossible to remove. You must always be in a framework where you allow something to be true. The analogy would be the presupposition of the reality of God. One could just as easily bring that presupposition into question and ask why is there a God rather than nothing?

        So in a way you are right. It is, on a fundamental level, kicking the problem upstairs. But by that same technicality, any answer to any question is kicking the problem back to the presuppositions of the answer.

  6. Tom Harkins Says:

    Morbert, you say, as a one sentence “conclusion,” that “Both the Big Bang and Darwinian evolution are entirely compatible with all the known laws of physics, including thermodynamics and relativity.” I realize Brent’s blog may not be the best forum to argue such points, but it seems to me that most evolutionists who make such statements don’t really seem to have many answers to specifics.

    For example, relativity presupposes the speed of light as the maximum speed that any force could “push” matter to travel, yet, according to one scientist’s book I read, he hypothesized (without characterizing it that way) that the universe expanded to 4 light years across in the first 0.1 second of the Big Bang. Millions of times too fast! He says that this simply means that the matter in the universe was “taken along with the ride,” so there is no problem with the light constant, but that is obviously nothing but mumbo-jumbo. Either matter in the universe was being moved faster than the speed of light, or it was not. I say not.

    As for thermodynamics, evolution has the universe going from total chaos to greater levels of order, whereas thermodynamics says the opposite is what occurs. I often hear the “but that is only in a closed system,” but isn’t the universe a “closed system” and didn’t it begin in “chaos”?

    Finally, Pasteur showed that there is no spontaneous generation of life from non-life, yet evolution depends on such a “spark” occurring (at least once?). There is no basis for such a supposition except that it “had to happen” for evolution to survive (obviously).

    So, there are difficulties with evolution at every turn (and many more that various creationist scientists could point out, I am certain), yet it is held out as scientific “dogma” which is so sanctified that no one dares dispute it for fear of being labeled hopelessly naive and “anti-intellectual,” if not worse.

    • Morbert Says:

      I’ll try and be a succinct as possible.

      The speed of light is a locally invariant property. The expansion of the universe is a global feature of spacetime, and perfectly consistent with relativity. The mistake you’re making is applying special relativity to a scenario that requires general relativity. “Taken along with the ride” is indeed uninformative, but what is actually happening is very specifically defined by relativity, and I can provide you with specifics if you like.

      The early universe was not chaotic. More specifically, the early universe had much lower entropy than it does now. This is because there was no thermal equilibrium among gravitational degrees of freedom. As matter began to clump together, entropy increased, as is continues to do so today.

      Finally, nobody is claiming life arose spontaneously. Abiogenesis is the study of processes that are candidates for a slow and gradual emergence of self-replicating molecules that could provide a template for early life. The techniques required to study Earth’s early history and biochemistry are recent, and so it is a very new field, but a very fruitful one too.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Morbert, you obviously are more familiar with scientific “jargon” than I am. I am not sure I see how “general relativity” can override special relativity to the extent of having matter travel at millions of times the speed of light–if you do have a web-reference link that shows that, I will try to look through it.

        By “chaotic” I mean “disorganized.” Hydrogen atoms and dust spewing out at tremendous speeds at the “outset” certainly appears “disorganized” to me. Whereas, at each step of the supposed subsequent process of evolution, greater and greater “organization” are said to occur, right up to the human brain and body. I think this is inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics.

        Finally, it is interesting that you suggest the science to supposedly show how life could develop from non-life is a “very new field.” Darwin and his early followers knew nothing about this, yet you indicate “Darwinian evolution” is consistent with scientific laws. Darwin never anticipated any modern “abiogenesis” as a “model” for evolution, so this is just the sort of “post-hoc” justification that evolution frequently relies upon.

      • Morbert Says:

        Here is a couple of (referenced) paragraphs on the expansion of the universe and the speed of light.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster-than-light#Universal_expansion

        The question of why matter initially began to clump together is a good one. After all, if matter was uniform, gravity could not begin to bring pockets of it together. Scientists have recently taken a picture of the very early universe. This famous picture is called the WMAP

        The dimpled imperfections are what allowed matter to clump together. After careful statistical analysis, scientists discovered that the dimples perfectly match fluctuations predicted by quantum mechanics. These small perturbations allowed matter to coalesce.

        If by “disorganised”, you mean something other than the increase in entropy, then it is a definition unrelated to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which is a very specific statement. All that Darwinian evolution needs in order to be consistent with the 2nd law of thermodynamics is a local source of low-entropy energy (I.e. High-frequency photons from the sun), and all the universe needs to do in order to be consistent with the 2nd law of thermodynamics is increase total entropy with time. The presence of gravity means the formation of stars and planets increases the entropy of the universe. An early universe uniform matter might not sound organised to you, but it has low entropy.

        So we can have a deeper discussion about the organising properties of evolution (after all, the potential for a local increase in organisation does not automatically make it so, and you are right when you say clumping is not enough to explain complex life), but the very specific statement “Evolution violates thermodynamics” is simply untrue.

        I’m not sure I understand your statements about abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution. Darwinian evolution relies on self-replicating molecules. Abiogenesis is the study of how those molecules may have formed. For example, the DNA molecule is far too complex to have arisen spontaneously or by chance, so instead scientists look at simpler replicating mechanisms as candidates for early life, that would be a precursor to DNA. (For example: The RNA world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNA_world )

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Morbert, thanks for your link re universal expansion, which I read. I guess a “lay-scientist” such as myself still can’t get past no force being able to accelerate mass to the speed of light being compatible somehow with the whole universe nonetheless defying (indeed, dwarfing) that speed limit (which necessarily means all the mass that is “moving with the universe” is likewise doing so). What type of mass and where in the universe is the “speed limit” actually applicable, then? It still sounds like a parlor trick to support evoluition to me.

        You also note that “Darwinian evolution relies on self-replicating molecules.” Did Darwin know that? Did he say that? Or is this some type of “reading back” into evolutionary dogma to supposedly sustain a system which was not originally even aware of such marvels?

        Finally, you point out that “the DNA molecule is far too complex to have arisen spontaneously or by chance.” I couldn’t agree more! Then you talk about a “precursor.” But the whole “process” to get from something simpler to “end up” generating a DNA molecule (and even greater marvels) could not have followed a “chance” route either, right? Are you an atheistic evolutionist or a theistic evolutionist? The whole universe, along with virtually each constituent, shouts out that it is “designed.”

      • Morbert Says:

        Keep in mind that the recession of galaxies faster than the speed of light is currently observable. It’s not just a trick to accommodate of inflation. Right now, if you look through telescopes that are powerful enough, you can see galaxies moving away from us at a speed faster than light.

        Think of it this way. Special relativity says you can never run away from me at a speed faster than light. But it says nothing about the rate at which the space between us can scale upwards, causing the distance between us to grow. Perhaps this article will make the distinction clearer. Special relativity assumes a fixed spacetime background, which is a good approximation sometimes. But experiments have shown that spacetime itself is dynamic and changing. That is where general relativity comes in.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_expansion_of_space

        Yes, Darwin knew about the requirements of evolution insofar as he was positing specific mechanisms for the diversification of life that relied on the heritability and selection of traits (Evolution itself, the ideas that animals change over time, is much older than Darwin). If you have an environment where these don’t exist, you can’t have Darwinian evolution.

        Also, there is no dogma or “reading back”. Darwin got a lot of things wrong, and the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology, while still Darwinian, is very different to evolutionary biology 150 years ago in Darwin’s time. A body of understanding that changes with new facts cannot be accused of dogmatism.

        And while it might be tempting to declare the universe is designed, the job of a scientists is to keep their humble nose to the ground and sniff out the workings of nature without making assumptions about what those workings are, and nature has revealed that evolution is not only plausible, but precisely matches the history, structure, and distribution of life we observe. I am an atheist and an evolutionist, but remember that most Christians around the world are evolutionists too. Evolutionary biology has no theological agenda.

  7. Tom Harkins Says:

    Morbert, I would make a couple of additional observations. First, you mention that “matter began to clump together.” That is very interesting. How, when, and why did it start “clumping” (and, was that subject to special relativity or general relativity, and if the former was involved, when did that “kick in” in the overall process of universal “development”)? Also, aside from possible star formation explanation (if it is), surely all further development thereafter has to have a lot more elaborate explanatory analysis than “clumping.”

    Second, you say, “nobody is claiming life arose spontaneously.” I am not sure “nobody” is. After all, isn’t it the common refrain that life arose from “primordial ooze”?

  8. Tom Harkins Says:

    Morbert, I admit some ignorance of “general relativity.” I guess my primary confusion in that regard is, how can general relativity be so inconsistent with special relativity? You say, as I understand you at any rate, that the universe itself can “expand” faster than the speed of light because it IS “spacetime,” as opposed to a “fixed spacetime background.” You also say, special relativity is “a good approximation sometimes.”

    Aren’t the stars “running away” from each other at in excess of the speed of light? When in the world is special relativity a “good approximation”? I don’t see when it could ever be firmly held to apply, under your scenario (since there is never a “fixed spacetime background,” as the universe constantly expands at in excess of the speed of light, and the universe is always, by definition, the “background”), yet the speed of light maximum is a “lynchpin” of “special” relativity. e=mc2 rests on that. The bombs in Japan evidenced that.

    Also, can we actually tell from red shifts and blue shifts that such stars are moving “in excess” of the speed of light? I can understand that we may be able to tell whether they are moving further away or closer on that basis, but the “enormous speed”? To me that seems a bit more than I would expect telescopes to be able to tell us. And, the Big Bang supposedly began with millions of times the speed of light, so how could special relativity be “a good approximation”? (Further, why did “spacetime” decide to “slow up” so much, from millions of times to perhaps not so much now? And what was “clocking” the “Bang” to know how fast it was?)

    Turning to Darwin, my primary point was, if he had no idea of the mechanism by which the supposed “changes from species to species” took place, why is he venerated as the “father” of evolution? His own observed “changes” were pretty miniscule, and he certainly did a major extrapolation from them. To say that he must have believed there was some mechanism to allow for such changes is nothing more than a hope that somebody might come along some day and come up with a theory to “bail him out,” since he certainly did not posit the “correct” mechanism whatsoever. And, the process of “change” in the theory has not stopped the intelligentsia from saying no one can challenge “evolution,” whereas practically each and every tenet of what “evolution” supposedly consists of changes almost monthly (according to the newspapers at any rate). Remember “Lucy”?

    Finally, “evolutionary biology has no theological agenda” is inaccurate, in my view. Believing evolution follows a preconceived agenda by a designing Creator is almost the opposite of saying it merely “blindly” followed various “laws” (where did those come from?) in an “unguided” fashion. To say that the highly organized and incredibly complex universe could have happened merely “naturally” certainly seems to be an “agenda” against a “Creator” to me.

  9. Tom Harkins Says:

    Morbert, I have now “speed-read” the entire wikipedia article that you referenced. Very confusing! And a lot of “higher math” and multiple theories. I note a couple of things included in the article. First, the universe as now conceived is “a universe fundamentally different from the static universe Albert Einstein first considered when he developed his gravitational theory.” So, Einstein himself, the developer of relativity rules, evidently did not understand them to correspond to the universe now hypothesized (or, hypothesized by some and radically different from that hypothesized by others).

    “In practice, standard rulers are not straightforward to find on cosmological scales and the time-scales for waiting to see a measurable expansion of the universe today are too long to be observable by even generations of humans.” So, nothing we actually “see” shows the expansion–it is a matter of hypothesizing from color shifts and mathematical theorizing.

    “The matter in the very early universe was flying apart FOR UNKNOWN REASONS.” Amen to that!

    “Once objects are bound by gravity, they no longer recede from each other. Thus, the Andromeda galaxy, which is bound to the Milky Way galaxy, is actually falling towards us and is not expanding away.” Aren’t ALL objects “bound by gravity” to one extent or another? Weaker as to some and more as to others depending on mass and distance, but the “pull” is there universally as a constant (or, has that changed to?).

    “The Copernican Principle which demands that no place in the universe is preferred (that is, the universe has no ‘starting point.'” How is that compatible with “Big Bang”?

    So, the article actually raises more questions than it solves. I admit to a lot of it being “over my head,” but frankly I don’t see how all of it considered can prove that the universe began with a “Big Bang” as opposed to being created by “fiat” by an all-powerful God–capable of actually “inventing” all the astonishing laws and principles that these many scientists say govern it all (though they can’t exactly agree on all of them).

    Finally, as far as the “ant on a rubber band,” the ant is actually moving as fast as the rubber band is expanding, and it requires force to “pull” the band to a “stretched out shape,” so if special relativity is actually valid at all, this would require the “limit” of force x mass to not be able to exceed c.

    Actually, I have one more thought. Don’t the laws of thermodynamics also say that the amount of “information” in the universe also declines, as well as entropy increasing? I know I have read that somewhere. This is where I get the “complexity” argument as being based on the thermodynamics rules. (Feel free to correct me if I am in error about that.)

  10. Morbert Says:

    Relativity is indeed an involved topic. And it is easy to fall into traps with analogies (E.g. The ant on the rubber ball). The dynamical nature of space and time might seem very strange, but it is well established by experiment. For example, every time you use a GPS, you are verifying general relativity, as the spacetime warped by the earth’s presence is factored into the calculations.

    So to avoid me dumping a wall of info that is probably better said elsewhere by cosmologists, I would simply encourage you to continue reading about the experimental predictions of relativity. For example, you say the expansion is merely hypothesised from some red shift observations, implying an imprecise guess on the part of scientists. The statistics and lines of investigation of red shifting galaxies alone are much more precise.and rigorous than you might imagine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble_constant

    I will try and answer your specific questions though. Special relativity is an appropriate approximation in regions of low spacetime curvature (I.e. where gravity is negligible). For example, in particle physics, special relativity has been merged with quantum mechanics to produce the most accurate physical theory known to man (See my QFT link in a post above).

    The Big Bang is compatible with the Copernican principle because expanding space means that, wherever you are, you will observe galaxies moving away from you.

    Regarding information: It is speculated that information could be lost in black holes, but standard quantum mechanics says information is preserved.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole_information_paradox

    Regarding Darwinism: I fear we are wading into old territory here. I will simply say that the mechanism by which species change is Darwinism, and that while Darwin got a lot of details wrong, he was right about the engine of change in nature, that has been affirmed time and time again.

    https://revbrentwhite.com/2012/03/06/more-on-the-dawkins-williams-debate/#comment-1471.

    • Tom Harkins Says:

      Morbert, I appreciate the time you have taken to respond to my points. At this point, I will look at your links as I have some time, but in the end I think we just have to agree to disagree. Despite all the mathematical equations, etc., I believe the presumptions upon which much of the mathematics is based to be unsound, and hence many of the conclusions are as well. Also, I don’t believe the fossil records, etc., actually support Darwinian theory, nor do I find similarities in genetic codes and the like to do so either. As I say, however, I will look at what you reference.

      Let me close by just noting that to me, even if all the math and conclusions are correct and all the apparent discrepancies between different theorists resolved, this would signify to me that the universe is far too complex and astonishing to have resulted from “chance”, and the “laws” directing such astonishments much more logically would have resulted from an even more astonishing mind than from — what? Mere “chance”? All this from — nothing?

      • Morbert Says:

        Ok, I think we can leave it here then. The only thing I would say is I certainly agree that to believe the complexity of the universe occurred by chance, or that the universe itself emerged from strictly nothing would indeed be silly, and I hope I haven’t given you the impression that that is what atheists believe.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Let me just respond to your last–what DO atheists believe about how the complexity of the universe came about, or where the universe “came from”?

      • Morbert Says:

        On a physical level, the question of the universe came from is impossible to answer without a quantum description of gravity, which we don’t have yet. Some models posit the universe (including space and time) is a quantum excitation of a field of space-time configurations, similar to the way electrons and photons can emerge as excitations of fields like the electromagnetic field or the Dirac field. But these are just speculative models and well-educated guesses until we get a working theory of quantum gravity. (Currently we have a theory of gravity and a theory of quantum physics, but not a single theory). Here is a short video on our current understanding of the “Big Bang”.

        On a metaphysical level (I.e. The question of why there is anything at all, including the physics that would permit a universe where complex life can evolve.), the answer is also that we don’t know. In fact, I would go one step further and say the question might not be well posed. Would you, for example, believe the question “Why is there a God rather than nothing?” is a meaningful one? Atheists believe the universe might simply be too great for our humble brains to fully comprehend, just as you would presumably agree that God is too great for us to fully comprehend.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        I agree God is too great for us to fully comprehend. However, that does not mean that there is nonetheless a fair amount of stuff we can comprehend, including what he has specifically revealed to us in scripture. Similarly with the universe. The question is, as I see it, doesn’t what we know about the universe cry out for some “creative” explanation? I don’t think it is ultimately adequate to simply say, “we don’t know” in that regard. I think we can review what appear to be the possible options, and choose the one most logical, subject to being proven wrong on that if that is the case. The more logical option is that a universe of this complexity and astonishment would have come from a grand creator, as opposed to from, again, what? Are you really satisfied to simply write off the creator prospect in favor of preferring, “I don’t know, but it wasn’t created”?

      • Morbert Says:

        I have to stress that you are applying a standard to atheism that you are not applying to theism. You are saying the universe, a thing of great astonishment, must have been created, while at the same time refusing to apply the same reasoning to God, a thing of presumably greater astonishment. You’ve “kicked the problem upstairs” so to speak.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Don’t have a problem with “kicking upstairs.” The question is, which is the more reasonable? Is it more reasonable, looking at the universe, to presume an infinitely wise, powerful, and creative creator as the cause of it, or some “warp” of something or another or “nothing.” If it is more reasonable to believe that a creator is responsible, then that is the preferred position to take. We have to have some cause of the universe as we see it, regardless, so which is the more reasonable cause? If that is “God,” then it is more reasonable to presume God over “nothing.” As far as presuming God’s existence, the reasoning is largely the same. Given what we see, is it more reasonable to assume God exists, or does not exist? It is more reasonable to believe he does exist. That may indeed be amazing, but, as between the two things that are both amazing, that is the one which makes more sense of what we see, so we go with that (until further notice or proof would show otherwise).

      • Morbert Says:

        Which of the following statements would be more reasonable in your opinion.

        “God is so astonishing and wondrous that he must have had a creator.”

        “God is so astonishing and wondrous. We cannot comprehend Him in His entirety.”

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Trick question! It is certainly true that we cannot comprehend God in His entirety. However, that does not mean that we cannot reach a conclusion as to whether he must have been “created.” To suggest that God, the most amazing of all persons or entities, must have had a “more” amazing creator, overlooks what God is, and also would require an “infinite regress.” At some point, there must have been a “point of origin”; in other words, an ultimate cause before which there could be no other cause. The question is, what would be the most likely “point of origin,” given what we can actually “see” that exists? An infinite, all powerful, all knowing, eternally existing God who is creative, or a “close to nothing.” “Close to nothing” is not a reasonable explanation for what we see. A “God” is explanatory. Since God, by definition, is eternally existent, there is no “need” or reason, or even possibility, that something could have existed “before” him to bring him into being. Thus, the actuality is, you can either “begin” with “nothing” (or, at a minimum, very close thereto), or with God. Rationally, there is very little other “option.” So, the answer to your question, basically, is that it misconstrues the nature of God and is contradictory to the nature of God to suppose that he could have been “created” by a “proto-God.” As God said to Moses, “I Am,” and “I Am that I Am.”

        Again, I suggest that we come back to a “which is more likely” analysis–such a God as the Creator, or a “close to nothing” point of origin?

    • Morbert Says:

      I don’t understand what you mean by “close to nothing”. While the early topology of the universe may have been characterised by an absence of matter, energy, space and time, that does not mean “nothing” or “close to nothing” was all that existed in the metaphysical sense. I actually think the language of people like Hawking and Krauss is very misleading insofar as physics and metaphysics are conflated.

      Instead,I believe that what we observe is only a small facet of what is, and just as a cat cannot contemplate relativity, the universe is not obliged to be understandable in its entirety by us. The best we can do is patiently and humbly investigate and learn what we can.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Question: Are you willing to put all your eggs in the basket of “don’t know; maybe someday somebody will,” as opposed to a reasonable conclusion of a Creator, and the existence of an incredible book purported to have been inspired by Him which says he created; when, if he DOES exist, He puts serious consequences on not accepting Him? (In other words, the question is not just academic.)

  11. Tom Harkins Says:

    P.S. The cartoon was pretty funny.


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