By Vexen Crabtree 2010 Feb 13
"God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist" by Prof. Victor J. Stenger (2007)1
The existence of God is not enough to explain the existence of the Universe. If it is valid to say "everything has a cause except God", it is more likely that everything has a cause except the Universe. If God doesn't need a cause because it is infinite, it is more likely that the natural Universe has existed forever and therefore doesn't need a cause.
People who believe in god (theists) subscribe to the theistic idea that the Universe was the work of a creator-god. They say that 'god did it', and although many books have been written about the details, there are fundamental problems with the whole idea that a god created the Universe.
They say that all things must have a cause, and therefore, god exists as the 'first cause' of everything else. These people ask questions like "Who do you think created you?" and "Do you think the Universe came out of nothing... who do you think created it?". These types of questions both rely on the "everything must have a cause, therefore God exists" argument. But this argument doesn't work. Examine these points:
If god-believers say that 'everything must have a cause' and state that this means that god exists, then, they have missed a part of their declaration out. Their true belief is that "everything must have a cause, apart from God". The term for God as the cause of everything is the 'first cause', so, this is the same as saying "everything must have a cause, apart from the first cause".
God isn't a simple thing; it has thoughts, motivations (to create, to love, etc), it has powers, imagination and its thoughts are themselves ordered logically and coherently so that it can plan things and think about things in a sensible way. In short, God is quite a complicated being.
These two facts combined to produce the more accurate first-cause argument:
“All causal explanations must have an arbitrary beginning”
“The argument that there must exist a first cause of everything is open to serious doubt as long as we adhere to any simple notion of cause, irrespective of whether the universe is infinitely old, or had a definite beginning in time.”
This means that the "everything must have a cause" part of the argument must be wrong. It is not true that everything must have a cause. In a causal world, there must always be something that has no cause. There is a different word for the belief that a complicated self-created first-cause that has a coherent internal logic requires no first cause: atheism. Because if such a complicated thing can exist without a cause, then that first-cause could well be an atheistic Universe, complete with a few internal physical laws. If you argue that everything has a cause except for god, then, you might as well argue that everything has a cause except the universe, and admit that there is no need to theorize that God exists. So if you accept the first-cause argument then it does not prove that God exists, but instead it proves that the Universe could be without a creator at all.
Some philosophers have even realized that God is more complicated than an uncaused Big Bang. When it comes to comparing arguments where there is no hope of actually getting any physical evidence, there is a long-standing heuristic to help distinguish between theories, called Occam's Razor: it turns out that when all evidence is accounted for, the simpler of any two theories is more likely to be the correct one. The theory with fewest assumptions is more likely to be true. God requires many properties and complexities such as consciousness, thought, personality, creative drive, love, an internal logic ordering its thoughts so that it can think coherently and rationally, etc: All of these properties must have been derived from somewhere. It turns out that God is a vastly more complicated thing that the Big Bang and the fundamental laws of the Universe.
“The scientist, however, may wish to challenge the assumption that an infinite mind (God) is simpler than the universe. In our experience, mind only exists in physical systems that are above a certain threshold of complexity [...] While it is possible to imagine a disembodied mind, there must be some means of expression of the pattern, and the pattern itself is complex. So it could be argued that an infinite mind is infinitely complex and hence far less likely than a universe. [...]
According to our best scientific understanding of the primeval universe it does indeed seem as though the universe began in the simplest state of all - thermodynamic equilibrium - and that the currently-observed complex structures and elaborate activity only appeared subsequently. It might then be argued that the primeval universe is, in fact, the simplest thing that we can imagine.”
There are fewer unanswered questions if we discard the complexities of a creator-god, and admit that atheism is more likely. If "everything must have a cause except for the first cause" then that first cause is much more likely to be an atheistic universe with its few basic laws, than a more-complicated creator-god.
It is not enough to say that "God exists" as the explanation as to why the Universe exists. If a God created the Universe, then, why did it do so? God must have had thoughts - a creative impulse - to create the space-time continuum. Therefore it is the properties and thoughts of God that explain the Universe, not the mere fact that God exists. God could easily exist for all of its eternity, existing in perfection in a perfect world, without creating the Universe. So saying that God explains the existence of the Universe is not the whole story.
“If God has a plan for the universe, which is implemented as part of his will, why does he not simply create a deterministic universe in which the goal of the plan is inevitable? Or better still create it with the plan achieved?”
Unfortunately there have been no comprehensive or compelling arguments as to why God created the Universe. This is a problem that effects not only monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but also other religions such as Buddhism: Sages from all these religions have tried to explained why existence is the way it is, complete with suffering and death, but none have given a straight answer as to why any of it needed to exist at all.
Some theists argue that God is eternal and was therefore never created. But I find this is an argument that can be used in conjunction with Big Bang theory to prove, again, that god is not likely to exist as a first cause. According to some Big Bang theories there has been an infinite number of cycles of Big Bang / Big Crunch (where the Universe ends in a big black hole after contracting, before exploding again) and that the Universe has existed forever. If it is possible for something to exist forever and not need a cause then it is likely to be the Universe, not God, and once again we can theorize that this is likely to be true because there would be no reason for god if it was true that something could exist with no cause.
In order to create, to think, God's thoughts must be more than random. To create the universe and time, God must be able to think logically. If it can't think logically, then, the laws of the universe were simply random, and the Universe might as well been self-created in an atheistic manner. In other words, for God to exist, God's thoughts must have always been ordered in a logical manner otherwise God could never have created order from chaos.
Kepler, one of the great minds in the history of science, came to similar conclusions about geometry, but didn't go as far as to say that it preceded God:
“Geometry existed before the Creation. It is co-eternal with the mind of God... Geometry provided God with a model for the Creation... Geometry is God Himself.”
In "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan (1995)
Kepler was assumedly counting mathematics and the general rules of the universe as 'geometry'.
This means that logic is a precursor to God. Logic, with its simple relations and rules that lets thought itself be ordered, must have existed independently of God's creative power. God could not have created the logic because requires logical thoughts to do any meaningful creating.
This results in two conclusions:
In theology-speak, the first cause is the description given to the creator of the universe, time, the laws of physics, etc. But it seems that in order for the first cause to be a creator-god, then that god cannot have created logic, and cannot therefore be the first cause after all. In other words, the fact that God needs to think logically in order to create means that God itself cannot be the creator of everything, only of parts of reality. In other words, there cannot be any monotheistic creator god.
If God chose to create anything then it must have had reasons to do so. God's "will" is not random, meaningless, chaotic or thoughtless. This means that these "reasons" are dependent on pure logic and must have driven god to do its very first act of creation. These motivations, this initial logic, will have been dictating God's thoughts from the moment of God's inception. If there was no logic and no motivation, God did not create anything on purpose. In that case, you might as well admit that the Universe created itself randomly, and that no creator God was required.
If god created anything according to a thought-out logical plan, or, if God had a desire to create anything that wasn't pure random chaos, then, god's thoughts must have been framed around logic. This logic allowed god to think and create, and, gave motivation to God. Logic must have been the first cause; but if logic is a requirement for God and existed before God could create, then God cannot be the First Cause, and therefore, creator-god theism is false, and atheism is true.
Some theists will make assertions that god is "outside of outside", "beyond logic", "transcends logic", "not subject to logical limitations" or that "human logic is limited" and other similar argument-stoppers. Although this at first appears to throw all intellectualizing out the window, kick all theology out the front door and firmly garrison the houses of religion from debate, it actually opens up the theist to some further criticisms.
If "Human logic" is insufficient for metaphysics then debating for the existence of God is pointless. Because it is by Human logic, thought and mentality that we arrive at the concept of God in the first place.
If God behaves according to logic that we don't understand (i.e.: Human logic is limited) then God is still behaving according to logic, even if it is logic we don't understand.
To say that god doesn't obey logical rules, to say that God could create a round square, for example, is to say that the abilities of god are abilities that cannot logically exist, making God into fantasy.
"Beyond logic" is a synonym for "irrational", and admissions that beliefs are "beyond logic" is an admission that such beliefs are irrational and logically indefensible.
If God is beyond logic, is it not true that atheists are at least somewhat more rational and logical in their beliefs? It seems to be!
If God can make plans, think logically or exist, then logic is an arch-power that encompasses God and gives reason for god's existence which appears to refute the idea that God could be the creator of logic. The God as first-cause argument is partially undermined. If there is no logical reason why God exists then it is more likely that there no logical reason why the Universe exists, and that instead of assuming that the organisational force is a 'god', it's simpler and more rational to assume that it is the universe itself. It appears that whether God exists for logical reasons or not a fundamental contradiction occurs. The only answer is that creator-gods cannot possibly exist. Atheism is more logical. This is also true if God is placed "beyond logic". And if it is said that Human logic is incapable of realizing such metaphysical truths, then this also undermines any argument that can be made by one human to another, for the existence of god.
Theistic arguments that God is 'beyond logic' or at least, beyond human understanding, place God firmly into the territory of irrational fantasy. To retreat into the corner where logic itself is denied, god-believers have admitted that there is no logical basis for their belief. At this point, it is better to try to understand the idea of God in terms of human psychology.
God And The New Physics (1984). Penguin 2006 edition. Davies is a Professor in theoretical physics who has published ground-breaking research.
Krauss, Lawrence. Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Physics Department at Arizona State University, as well as Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative and Inaugural Director of the Origins Project.
A Universe from Nothing (2012). Amazon digital edition. Published by Free Press, New York, USA.
Russell, Bertrand. (1872-1970)
History of Western Philosophy (1946). Quotes from 2000 edition published by Routledge, London, UK.
Cosmos (1995). Originally published 1981 by McDonald & Co. This edition published by Abacus.
Stenger, Prof. Victor J.
God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (2007). Published by Prometheus Books. Stenger is a Nobel-prize winning physicist, and a skeptical philosopher whose research is strictly rational and evidence-based.