Explaining the Universe

grand_universe_by_antifan_real1If the universe has an explanation, that explanation is God.

This statement is actually much less controversial than one might think. In fact, it is simply a restatement of something one often hears out of atheists. Steven Hawking, for instance has said that the universe will not have an explanation, but “simply be”. Bertrand Russell has suggested that the universe is our terminus of explanation. Many others have made the same intimation.

These men are saying that, from their atheistic perspective, the universe has no explanation. This is equivalent to saying that the universe is either explained by God, or by nothing.

Of course, it is not simply that this is what is being said, it is the fact that there is good reason to say it. Certainly, the materialist is convicted that everything which exists is composed of matter. If this is true, there can’t possibly be an explanation of all the matter and energy that exists (which is how “universe” is being defined in this argument).

I won’t discuss the much longer (and much less relevant) arguments against non-materialist atheists here. Rather, I’ll point out that the most common move I’ve encountered among atheists is off topic.

That is, many begin emphasizing at this point that this doesn’t prove the truth of any particular religion. But, of course, that is a separate discussion. Showing theism to be the most reasonable case precedes an argument for a particular form of theism. And claiming “but the Muslims might be right” does not support atheism.

Rather, the inability of materialism to offer an explanation as to why matter exists is a reason to move materialism off the table in this discussion. Unless, of course, the  materialist wants to argue that there simply is no explanation.

Personally, I don’t see how this last differs from an appeal to magic. Halting inquiry in order to conclude that there is nothing beyond the point where we halted is not a good way to get at truth, after all. I think it much more reasonable, and much more in line with inquiry, to take the view that things have explanations.

Of course, some will press the multiverse as an explanation of the universe. I’ll discuss that in a future post.

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15 responses to “Explaining the Universe

  • indytony

    Atheists may believe the universe has no explanation, but they sure spend a lot of time (and make a lot of money) explaining away the explanation.

    • Debilis

      There does seem to be that type.

      I keep trying to invent ways to make it obvious that “I’m okay with uncertainty” isn’t a good reason to refuse to consider the matter.

  • katachriston

    Few atheists are thoughtful, expansive enough in thinking to allow for the fact that at some point the disciplines involved in the “origins” debate must move to secondary arguments that narrow the question to “what god?” and perhaps to more “in-house” debates involving historicity, the nature of revelation, logical consistency, self-contradiction, self-attestation, archeology, etc.
    “One thing at a time” is hard to swallow for demanding materialists who are just too impatient, too restrictive, too enslaved to a priori commitments. It just blows their fuses. They throw up their hands in frustration, storm out of the debate like children throwing a tantrum and slurk off to some corner of the Internet where they can practice their condescending demands on those like themselves.
    Thank you for your hard work.

  • NotAScientist

    “If the universe has an explanation, that explanation is God.”

    ‘God’ is not an explanation. Any more than ‘magic’ would be.

    • Debilis

      That seems rather declarative. God is a very well understood concept, and there is much nuance that can be added.

      So, yes, people can use the word “God”, or the word “science”, or anything else, in order to vaguely gesture at the idea of explanation. But there is no reason at all to think that any of these things are fundamentally non-explanatory.

      • NotAScientist

        “God is a very well understood concept”

        Ask 10 people what ‘god’ is, see if you don’t somehow get 11 different answers.

        But as ‘god’ has yet to be clearly defined or proven, it does not serve as an explanation for something else. Not a good one, any way.

    • Debilis

      I could say the same for Big Bang cosmology, quantum mechanics, or any number of other respected theories.

      The fact that there are points of disagreement, particularly if you are simply asking random people in the street (as this implies) does not refute an explanation.

      So, “God” has been clearly defined at least since Aquinas. As for proven, this is an argument for God’s existence. To try to use “unproven” against it is simply begging the question.

      If I were to say that the standard model of quantum mechanics is no explanation of the behavior of quantum particles because it isn’t proven apart from explaining those particles, you’d rightly accuse me of missing the point entirely. It is the same here.

      Last, and this is the most significant thing, none of this actually refutes the argument. It does nothing to offer another explanation of the universe. That being the case, God is definitely the most reasonable explanation on the table.

      And that was the point of this post: to defend the idea that God is the best explanation of the universe. If you feel that there is a better one, I’d be very interested in hearing about it.

  • Just wow 8P

    … Yep if people don’t agree on a certain definition of something than it can’t be an explanation….

    Wow… Just wow.

  • Thinking again...

    Btw… That was an argument of popularity or maybe an appeal to consensus wasn’t it?

  • Salar

    Good post.

    What the multiverse (and Quantum theory, and the Many Worlds theory) does is move the question into realms that the human mind has no reference point for.

    The question of “what caused this?” gets lost in the fog.

    Looking forward to your next post…

  • Witty Ludwig

    “This is equivalent to saying that the universe is either explained by God, or by nothing.”

    This is the same leap I mentioned earlier, the source of a linguistic confusion. You write well, by the way. I enjoy these articles.

  • Witty Ludwig

    “That seems rather declarative. God is a very well understood concept, and there is much nuance that can be added.”

    “Last, and this is the most significant thing, none of this actually refutes the argument. It does nothing to offer another explanation of the universe. That being the case, God is definitely the most reasonable explanation on the table.”

    And therein lies the problem! Sorry, I missed this a moment ago.

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