Defense of Theism pt 1

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Sun Jun 19 2005 - 21:37:00 EDT

The series of posts will outline some thoughts I have why theism is
than the other options, atheism, agnosticism, pantheism etc. My thoughts
here are in line with my constant question of how does Christianity
differentiate itself from other religions, if we start with an
that Christianity is truth and then build an apologetic on top of that.
Circularity should be avoided at all possible times. This essay is an
attempt to defend theism against atheism and will show that the atheist,
even if he refuses to admit it, is in much the same boat as the theist.

I expect much criticism. This will be especially true if I post it here
where many don't think my approach of trying to find concordance between
religion and science to be a worthwhile program of study. My defense
will be
that as long as we think science is telling us about reality, avoiding
reality in religion harms religion. But I am convinced what Tipler says
about the preferred relationship between theology and science is true:

"Of course, the real reason modern theologians want to keep science
from religion is to retain some intellectual territory forever protected
from the advance of science. This can only be done if the possibility of
scientific investigation of the subject matter is ruled out a priori."
(Tipler 1994, p. 7)

With this as a background, I am looking for a critique of these
ideas. Be
hard, be thorough, be critical. I want to know where these ideas are
even if I disagree, I want to know. I will first look at what we can
from the origin of the universe itself.

When considering the very origin of the universe (broadly defined)
one has
to explain the fact of existence itself. Stephen Hawking asked
probably the
most interesting question a scientist can ask:

Although science may solve the problem of how the universe began, it
answer the question: Why does the universe bother to exist? I don't
know the
answer to that." (Hawking, 1993, p. 99)

The Syntopicon of the Great Books says this about existence:

"The Greeks, notably Plato and Aristotle, began the inquiry about being.
They realized that after all other questions are answered, there still
remains the question, What does it mean to say of anything that it is
or is
not? After we understand what it means for a thing to be a man or to be
alive, or to be a body, we must still consider what it means for that
simply to be in any way at all;. . ." "Being" Great Books of the Western
World, Vo. 2 (Chicago: Enclyclopedia Britannica, 1952), p. 129

What does it mean to be? To exist? For humans to exist presupposes the
existence of the universe. For the universe, this question causes great
problems. What do we presuppose for the existence of the universe?
has suggested several answers to this question. However, as we will
see, all
of the scientific answers stop short of actually explaining existence.
Berkeley says

"Nothing seems of more importance towards erecting a firm system of
and real knowledge, which may be proof against the assaults of
than to lay the beginning in a distinct explication of what is meant by
thing, reality, existence; for in vain shall we dispute concerning
the real
existence of things, or pretend to any knowledge thereof, so long as
we have
not fixed the meaning of those words." (Berkeley, 1710, Sec 89)

Now, looking at the options for the reason of the universe's
existence (or
at least the ones I can think of), we have

1. God
2. the universe itself
3. logic
4. math
5. vacuum
6. inflaton field
7. ourselves

These may not be totally independent causes. God could use the vacuum to
create the universe, but what we are interested in is the First Cause
of the
universe, that which in some sense 'always was' although that in
itself is a
bad term to use because it implies time before the Big Bang. Below is a
discussion of each of the contenders for the First cause.


With God, the game is very familiar. God zaps something into
existence which
either leads to our universe through an evolutionary process or God zaps
thing after thing into existence, thus creating, ala a magician, our
world. Science can not ask God to step into the lab and be tested or
to do
it again, so this option, if true, is beyond science.

The Universe

Saying 'the universe created the universe' might be an odd way to say
the universe was created, but Hawking's No-Boundary proposal for the
universe posits that there are no spatial or temporal boundaries to the
universe. This means that the universe always has been and there are no
singularities, no big bang. Hawkings writes:

  "What is the point of introducing the concept of imaginary time? Why
doesn't one just stick to the ordinary, real time that we understand?
reason is that, as noted earlier, matter and energy tend to make
curve in on itself. In the real time direction, this inevitably leads to
singularities, places where space-time comes to an end. At the
singularities, the equations of physics cannot be defined; thus one
predict what will happen. But the imaginary time direction is at right
angles to real time. This means that it behaves in a similar way to the
three directions that correspond to moving in space. The curvature of
space-time caused by the matter in the universe can then lead to the
space directions and the imaginary time direction meeting up around the
back. They would form a closed surface, like the surface of the
earth. The
three space directions and imaginary time would form a space-time
that was
closed in on itself, without boundaries or edges. It wouldn't have
any point
that could be called a beginning or end, any more than the surface of
earth has a beginning or end." (Hawking, 1993, p. 82-83)

Now, what this does is posit eternal existence to the universe itself
does away with the Big Bang. But, why does it EXIST? What logic requires
such a self-contained universe to actually exist rather than absolutely
nothingness be the case? Science can't seem to answer that and it
seems very
difficult to construct an experiment to address that question.
Lacking such
an experiment, it seems to me that we have gone outside of science
when we
address the existence of the universe in Hawking's no-boundary
But even if his view is accepted, one must posit god-like properties
to his
universe--the property of self-existence/self-creation, logic, math and
eternally past existence. This proposal actually avoids explaining


This concept comes to my mind from an proposal in New Scientist a
couple of
years ago (Feb 17, 2001, p. 26). Anton Zeilinger has proposed that at
basis of all reality is the bit. The article, entitled 'In the
Beginning was
The Bit,' argues that the world is quantized because reality is
informational bits, the atom of information is the bit. We can only
of the world in yes or no questions. Now to my mind, existence itself is
also binary. Either one exists or one doesn't exist, yes or no. And
if that
is the case, then one could propose that we exist because the answer
came up
yes. But one must then ask, why would the entire mechanism of a yes-
no logic
exist out of which came the answer 'yes'? How could logic exist when
all was
nothingness? So once again, we are at the point of having to postulate
god-like attributes to something other than God in order to have
Logic must have been always self-existing, self-created and had the
to create.

And interesting aside is that Landauer (1991) showed that information is
physical and exists in the arrangement of matter. Given that, there does
appear to be one paradox in information theory. In a discussion of
how the
universe formed, one must ask: 'Does the object exist?". Both
answers lead
to one bit of information- yes/no, zero/one. But in the case of utter
nonexistence, there is nothing which can store that bit of information
because there is nothing, and that leads to a paradox. While
existence can
store its bit of information, nothingness can't. Thus the utter
described by the nihilo of creation ex nihilo, lacks even one bit of


If we start with utter nothingness, no equations, no logic, no time, no
matter, how is it possible for utter nothingness to decide to put
into play
a large equation in which is embedded the tensor for the four
forces as we know them today. This is what utter nothingness had to
be able
to generate, if there is not something at the origin, possessing a mind
capable of generating such things. Few humans today actually
understand this
math and it requires years of study for them, yet, to reject a Creator
requires that utter nothingness be capable of multidimensional tensor
analysis. This is a schematic of the tensor which nothingness must have


The Einstein part of the equation is the gravitational tensor, the
part is what Kaluza and Klein added to that to incorporate
The Yang-Mills part is what comes out of particle physics. Utter
nothingness put into play an equation which somehow embedded this
Why this equation rather than another? How does utter nothingness
anything at all? It seems difficult to claim that it is possible to
experiment on utter nothingness or to do theoretical physics on utter
nothingness, even an utter nothingness devoid of equations and logic
If one believes this, then please tell me of this miracle!

The Vacuum

This is the view that the universe is created by a quantum
fluctuation in
the pre-existing vacuum. Edward Tryon says:

  "If it is true that our universe has a zero net value for all
quantities, then it may simply be a fluctuation of the vacuum, the
answer to
the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our
universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time."
(Tryon, 1973)

But Tryon's answer is incomplete. In his view the universe would exist
because the vacuum existed previously. But one must then ask why the
existed? What logic requires it to be here rather than be NOT HERE?
One can
see quickly that godlike properties have to be attributed to the
vacuum. It
must exist eternally, or it must be self-creative, it must be capable of
creating our universe, it must possess logic and tensor math. Once
again, we
have something incredibly godlike but we dare not call it God.

Alexander Vilenkin has proposed a universe which comes out of nothing
and it
is an extension of Tryons idea (Guth, 1997, p. 273). He has it start
with no
matter and no space or time. But he can't do without the existence of
equations which somehow have the power to actually cause what Vilenkin's
theory says. In other words, Vilenkin has to start with the existence
somehow of logic and math. In what substrate is the INFORMATION encoding
these equations held when there is no space, no time and no matter.
Information requires matter (Landauer, 1991). So where was the equation
residing and how was it put into play? Why this equation and not another
one? Vilenkin really doesn't start with absolutely nothing because
and logic are actually something. In order to solve the problem one must
start with absolutely nothing--no equations, no logic, no space, no
time, no
vacuum etc ad nauseum.

The inflaton field

This is not that much different from the vacuum and the arguments
will be
much the same. Alan Guth proposed that an inflaton field creates
after universe in cosmic eternity and we are just one of those
But there are the same problems with the idea where existence is

"However, inflation is not yet fact; it still awaits experimental
confirmation. As I pointed out before, no one has ever seen an
inflaton, the
field that supposedly drives inflation. Until we do, there is a
market for
alternative ways to solve these riddles, and scope for much childish
bickering among cosmologists."(Magueijo, 2003, p. 132)

And, one must still ask why did the inflaton field exist? Is it the
god-like thing possessing self-creation or eternal existence, logic,
and magnificent creative powers? Why does it exist and how does science
address that simple question. I know of no way to address the
question of
existence via science at all.


This comes from the need for an observer in the Copenhagn
interpretation of
quantum. The universe exists because we observe it to exist. I doubt
are many adherents to this view and I find it odd to place mankind in
place of god, but given that science can't even explain the existence
consciousness and self-awareness, much less even define it, we have
to list
this only for completeness sake. To take this option makes us
observers the
godlike beings with properties of self-creation. And that is not a
view I
will hold. But once again, I know of no scientific test one could
use to determine if that is true or not. Why do we exist?

In this brief survey it is clear that whatever road we take, we must
god-like properties to something. These properties consist of
self-existence/self-creation, logic, math, and immense power to actually
create a universe. We either postulate a God or we postulate a god-like

Is there a science experiment which will distinguish between the above
options when it comes to existence itself? I can't think of one. In
order to
do it one would have to start with a lab full of....utterly nothing
and then
try each of the above options to see which one turned utterly nothing
something. And that is impossible to do.

So where does science get us? If you define science as the
positivists did,
then science is only what we can observe, then our science does not
allow us
to observe things very close to the origin of the universe. We have
lots of
mathematical theories going back to those times but we have no
The cosmic microwave background allows us to see the universe only
back to
the decoupling era, when electromagnetic radiation and matter
decoupled and
atoms were able to form. This is about 300,000 years after the Big Bang
(Silk, Big Bang, 3rd ed. p. 163). While we think we know what happened
before that, we actually have no observations from astronomy.

But we do have evidence from particle physics. The collisions of
in the upcoming Large Hadron Collider will take us back to 10^-15
after the Big Bang. But there it stops. It is highly unlikely that we
ever build an accelerator big enough to probe the big bang itself at

  "At earlier times and higher energies, the temperature increases
continuously back to the Planck instant, where it attains the incredible
value of 10^32 kelvins. For physicists who ordinarily work with giant
particle accelerators, such conditions are unattainable. The
energy is 10^19 gigaelectron volts (giga- billion): the largest planned
terrestrial accelerators may smash particles together at energies of
thousands of gigaelectron volts. The early universe offers a marvelous
particle accelerator: we would need to build an array of superconducting
magnets 1 light-year across to duplicate it."(Silk, 2001, p. 110)

Now, given that we will always have this observational gap and given
science can not possibly explain why things exist without positing
powers to something and given that one can't have a lab full of
nothing to
test the efficacy of various theories for our existence, this
question is
entirely outside of science.

One could easily compare the attempts by science to explain the
existence of
the universe via some pre-existing ur-stuff as equivalent to the
of the Milesian philosophers several thousand years ago. Each
decreed that the ultimate stuff of the universe was some material-water,
air, etc. Today, we are much more sophisticated and chose things
like the
vacuum, quarks, branes or other abstract items to be the ultimate ur-
of the universe. We have come so far in five thousand years.

When the atheist or agnostic, denigrates the theist for believing in
a God,
design or creation, one must think of the reality that these same
must attribute god-like powers to the material realm.
Epistemologically, we
theists are on a level playing field with them so long as we posit
design at
the beginning of the universe rather than in biological systems. The
question of how the universe possesses existence itself is an open
which leaves one free to choose his favorite poison.

When it comes to the question of existence itself, the question of
how the
universe acquired this most important property, the anti-creationists
are at
a decided disadvantage. If they believe the universe has always
then they are attributing God-like powers to the material universe.
If they
believe the universe came ultimately out of nothing, then one can ask,
"Doesn't this creation of something ex nihilo sound a bit like what
are often criticized for? If all positions have to end with the
creation of
something out of utter nothingness, in what way are they less a
than I?"

Is this a God-of-the-Gaps argument? Probably. But frankly, I find
that to be
an advantage. The most ancient occurrence of that phrase, which I have
found, appears in Henry Drummond.

"If God is only to be left to the gaps in our knowledge, where shall
we be
when these gaps are filled up? And if they are never to be filled up,
is God
only to be found in the disorders of the world? Those who yield to the
temptation to reserve a point here and there for special divine
interposition are apt to forget that this virtually excludes God from
rest of the process." (Drummond, 1894), p. 333)

The problem with Drummond's reasoning is that, so far as the 'rest of
process' is concerned, we can't possibly demonstrate that God is
involved. It is a faith statement, not a statement about evidence. How
exactly is one to decide that God is involved in mutating a strand of
How is one to actually demonstrate that God is involved in stellar
formation? The much denigrated God-of-the-gaps argument forces us to
actually leave God out of the 'rest of the process' for want of
or for want of demonstrability.

In my opinion, this argument has caused Christians to unnecessarily
cede the
intellectual playing field to those who do not believe God is
involved at
all. The atheistically-minded tolerate scientists who are Christian
when the Christian speaks of having God involved in the universe, it is
clear that they are not speaking of any actual evidence but only stating
something which lacks evidence and thus reality. To the
atheistically-minded, a statement that God is involved in the process
is no
more real than stating that Leprechauns are involved in the process.
Leprechauns might be involved in the process but how would one ever
demonstrate their influence? As long as Christians involved in science
retreat from stating any positive about God's involvement, we are
doing what
Tipler says of theologians, preserving an area forever untainted by
And this makes our views irrelevant to science. Since science tells
us about
reality, it means we are abandoning reality and retreating to the
Worse, we may be doing what Phillip Johnson said of theistic
failing to challenge the atheistic world view of today.

I would conclude that one is only capable of actually demonstrating the
possibility of God's involvement in the gaps. God may be involved in the
rest of the process, but one will never know it, because it is little
than a vacuous statement of faith without any means of verification.
It is
no more meaningful than having leprechauns involved in nurturing nature.

I would also conclude that the atheist is no better off than the
theist. His
position places him on the horns of a dilemma, either believe in a
ur-stuff (which is capable of self-creation/or eternal self existence,
capable of developing logic and tensor mathematics, and capable of
universes like ours) or be a creationist and believe, like the
theist, in
creation ex nihilo of the ur-stuff.


Berkeley, 1710. Principles of Human Knowledge.

Drummond, Henry, 1894. Ascent of Man, (New York: James Pott & Co.
Publishers, 1894),

Alan Guth, 1997.The Inflationary Universe, (Reading, MA: Perseus Books)

Hawking, Stephen, 1993. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays,
(New York: Bantam Books)

Landauer, Rolf 1991 "Information is Physical," Physics Today, May 1991

Magueijo, Joao, Faster than the Speed of Light, (Cambridge: Perseus
Publishing, 2003)

Silk, Joseph, 2001. The Big Bang, 3rd ed. (New York: W. H. Freeman)

Tipler, Frank J. 1994, The Physics of Immortality, (New York:

Tryon, Edward P., 1973. "Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation?" Nature,
246(1973):396-397, reprinted in John Leslie, ed., Modern Cosmology &
Philosophy, (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1998), p. 224
Received on Mon Jun 20 12:12:50 2005

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