Re: Defense of Theism pt 1

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Jun 21 2005 - 16:11:33 EDT

Unsystematic comments follow. If some seem overly pedantic, ignore them.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Glenn Morton" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2005 9:37 PM
Subject: Defense of Theism pt 1

> 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.

Others will have to speak for themselves but I don't think most here are
opposed to concord (or perhaps consonance) between science & religion.
Where you have met disagreement (from me & others) is about whether
scripture must be read in scientifically &/or historically concordist ways.

> When considering the very origin of the universe (broadly defined)
> one has
> to explain the fact of existence itself.

At this point it's not adequate to "broadly define" the universe. In fact
you don't seem to define it at all. If (as some would say) the universe is
everything that exists, does it include God? Angels? Why or why not? If
not, what is it? Do you mean "the physical universe?" If there are
parallel worlds of one sort or another, do they form a single universe or
are there multiple universes? Later on you speak as if "the vacuum" &
"inflatons" were something different from the universe. Why?

> 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.
> God
> 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
> present
> 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.

As with "universe," you haven't defined what you mean at this stage by
"God." (& why the singular? Do we rule polytheism out from the start?) &
with your emphasis on "existence," is it obvious that we want to talk about
"existing"? That suggests that God is one entity alongside of, or perhaps
above, others, but having the same ontological status. That is why Tillich,
e.g., argued that God is not "a being" but "the ground of being" or, in a
sense, existence itself ("deus est esse").
> The Universe
> Saying 'the universe created the universe' might be an odd way to say
> that
> 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?
> The
> reason is that, as noted earlier, matter and energy tend to make
> space-time
> 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
> cannot
> 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
> three
> 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
> the
> earth has a beginning or end." (Hawking, 1993, p. 82-83)

Hawking doesn't indicate as clearly as he might the need to be open to the
idea of imaginary time even apart from its use in developing his
cosmological model. In quantum gravity the metric components will undergo
quantum fluctuations. That means that calculations will have to take into
account not only space-times with the usual signature - + + + but also
those with + + + +, which is equivalent to having an imaginary time.

> Now, what this does is posit eternal existence to the universe itself
> and
> 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
> universe.
> 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
> existence.

Sure - you have to give Hawking some math which is assumed to possess some
reality for him to get started.

> Math
> 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
> fundamental
> 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
> produced.
> Einstein..|.M|...|
> ..........|.A|Y.M|Quarks
> ..........|.X|a.i|&
> ..........|.W|n.l|Leptons
> ..........|.E|g.l|
> ..........|.L|..s|
> ..........|.L|...|
> -----------------|
> Maxwell...|..|...|
> -----------------|
> .............|...|
> Yang-Mills...|...|
> -----------------|
> .Quarks..........|
> .&.Leptons.......|
> The Einstein part of the equation is the gravitational tensor, the
> Maxwell
> part is what Kaluza and Klein added to that to incorporate
> electromagnetism.
> The Yang-Mills part is what comes out of particle physics. Utter
> nothingness put into play an equation which somehow embedded this
> equation?
> Why this equation rather than another? How does utter nothingness
> generate
> 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
> itself!
> If one believes this, then please tell me of this miracle!

Don't overemphasize the tensorial character of the math. A tensor is an
entity with certain transformation properties. There are other possible
math structures for universes.

Even waiving the question of whether or not math has any reality if there's
no one (including God) to think it, there is also the question that Hawking
posed, "What puts the fire in the equations?" I.e., there are math
structures for a lot of possible universes, like pure Newtonian particles in
Euclidean space or finite arithmetics, that don't (as far as we know!) exist
in the way that our universe does. Why not? Of course that's just the
issue of contingency that you stated above.

> This is the view that the universe is created by a quantum
> fluctuation in
> the pre-existing vacuum.

I agree with your statements here about the vacuum & inflatons but, as I
noted earlier, they should simply be considered aspects of the universe.
Specifically, a quantum vacuum is a particular state of a given field. If
the field isn't given then it's meaningless to talk about its vacuum state.
It's like asking "What's the solution of?"


>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
>there are many adherents to this view and I find it odd to place mankind in
>the 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
>possibly use to determine if that is true or not. Why do we exist?

In this kind of participatory view it's true that the universe exists
because it's observed by observers but there are also observers because
there's a universe. It's not creatio ex nihilo. & in fact there are
interesting similarities between this view & process theology.

> In this brief survey it is clear that whatever road we take, we must
> posit
> 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
> ur-stuff.

> 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
> critics
> 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
> question
> which leaves one free to choose his favorite poison.

At least some atheists would respond as Bertrand Russell did: "The world as
a whole just is, that's all. We start there." Of course that dodges the
question but we all have to do that at some point because we all have to
assume something if we're going to open our mopuths.

> 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
> existed,
> then they are attributing God-like powers to the material universe.

Here again you would need to define "God-like powers." I gather that you
mean "the ability to cause things (including one's own self) to exist."

> 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
> theists
> 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
> creationist
> 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
> the
> rest of the process." (Drummond, 1894), p. 333)
> The problem with Drummond's reasoning is that, so far as the 'rest of
> the
> process' is concerned, we can't possibly demonstrate that God is
> actually
> 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
> DNA?
> 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
> information
> or for want of demonstrability.

I don't consider appealing to the idea of God as an answer to the question
"Why does anything exist" to be a GoG response. The "gap" here is really a
boundary rather than a gap between two sets of phenomena that can each be
explained scientifically. (E.g., we can understand how simple organic
molecules came into being, & how living things could have evolved from
prokaryotes on, but we don't have an adequate understanding of how to get
from amino acids &c to prokaryotes. The idea that life must then have
arisen by miracle is a classic GoG argument.)

The rest of your post gets into an area that we've often debated. I think
you're wrong about it but don't want to distract you from developing your
"Defense" of theism. I'll be interested to see how you get from theism
(which together with 50c may get you a cup of coffee at McD's if you're old
enough) to Christianity.
Received on Tue Jun 21 16:15:32 2005

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