God Doesn’t Exist Because Science is Bunk

self-contradictionMuch like Craig himself, I’ve always been surprised that it is actually the first premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and not the second, that atheists tend to attack.

I expect that this has a great deal to do with the fact that the findings of modern cosmology has supported the idea that the universe began to exist, whereas the notion that anything which begins to exist has a cause is a metaphysical principle – which many atheists feel free to reject.

However, it is the first premise that any real supporter of science will defend most strongly. Claiming that things can come into existence without a cause is to cease to think scientifically and resort to magic.

That is, the whole of modern science is a search for the causes of things. It is founded on the idea, then, that events have causes. Anyone who simply rejects this notion can hardly be said to have a “scientific mind”, and to suggest that things can come into existence without causes is positively anti-science.

To dismiss this idea strikes me as one more attempt to give a simple answer to a complex question. Simply concluding “the universe doesn’t have an explanation, it just is” is surely as much a halt to inquiry as anything the most fundamentalist preacher has said. That being the case, it seems that there’s absolutely no reason at all too think this – and good reason to reject such statements as anti-intellectual.

If someone is willing to dismiss a pillar of western philosophy that also happens to be the intellectual basis of science in order to avoid the conclusion of an argument, well, it is hard not to conclude that the discussion has left rationality behind. Personally, I find it very difficult to picture someone seriously saying that he doesn’t believe in God because he thinks things can come into existence without a cause.

Certainly, anyone who takes this tact is abdicating all claim to defending science.

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14 responses to “God Doesn’t Exist Because Science is Bunk

  • heathertaylor

    I totally agree with this point. The most frustrating part is that in discussion with many atheists, they seldom concede to flaws in their reasoning or holes in their logic, such as the lack of proof for a scientific first cause. It is even more frustrating when those who argue with them are willing to admit to the flaws in their own points. This tends to make atheists assume they are superior based on their sheer stubbornness.

    I’ve even had atheists admit that they can’t explain how the universe came into being or prove that God absolutely doesn’t exist, yet they continue to cling to that claim despite significant evidence. For them to make a claim such as God’s nonexistence, they carry the burden of proof, but cannot supply it.

    • Debilis

      I can definitely commiserate.
      I keep telling myself to be patient with that type, but it is a challenge.

      • heathertaylor

        I know, one of my atheist friends and I literally agree to an impass:no more discussions/arguments because it was getting in the way of our friendship. All you can really do is pray at a certain point. Ultimately, God is in control.

        • writtenbyafloridian

          This reminds me of a story told to me once by a friend of mine, who is a retired Anglican priest. My friend was asked to give a lecture at one of the more popular Anglican conventions for active and retired priests in Canada. My friend, while an implicit atheist now, was, at the time, a fairly liberal Christian, who held to a non-supernaturalist understanding of Scripture. Of course, during the course of his talk, he attempted to provide a rough framework for how his sort of liberal faith could operate, effectively, within Christianity, a faith that was, more or less, a utilization of the myth-driving nature of Christianity to structure and communalize human existence. At the end of his talk, he could see the disagreement on the faces of almost all the clergy present, but one kindly, old priest stood up and said, “Well, brother, if that is what you believe, then we will be praying for you.”

          That last bit has stuck with me. For, I suspect, people say the thing about my sort of faith.

          Cheers

  • Allallt

    On Youtube there is a video called ‘I Kalam like I see ’em’. The ‘Tuber is called TheoreticalBullshit (consider that a warning about the language used).
    In the video, Scott (the birth name of the ‘Tuber), explains that ex nihilo causation cannot be incorporated into what we know about ex materia causation. In fact, all we know about ex nihilo causation is that nothing is unstable and breaks down (think virtual particles and Hawking radiation and, if Krauss is right, the cause of the universe). That is not causal–as we know it–instead it is borne out of a physical principle.

    So, it is not unscientific to _not_ incorporate ex nihilo causation under the ex materia causation we study more often. They are clearly philosophically (and empirically) different.

    • Debilis

      I actually know that channel. He’s always left me with two impressions:
      1. He’s very intelligent.
      2. He’s very biased.

      That is to say that I find him far too uncritical of arguments that support his case, and very uncharitable in interpreting opposing arguments.

      In this instance, I’d say that he’s wrong on all counts.

      First, the principle that nothing comes from nothing is not simply an inference from ex materia causation (this is simply an uncharitable reading). It is a foundational metaphysical principal which (in addition to that) is confirmed by experience.

      Second, this is an equivocation on the term “nothing”. The only way that it makes sense to say “nothing is unstable and breaks down” is to use the word “nothing” to refer to the quantum vacuum, which is not nothing in the relevant sense.

      Personally, I’m more than willing to substitute the phrase “the absence of anything, even the quantum vacuum” for the term “nothing” in discussions of the Kalam. If one does that, it becomes obvious that Krauss’ response doesn’t address the point being made.

      Third, not only is the decay of the quantum vacuum not remotely a refutation from the idea that the universe did not come from “not anything, not even the quantum vacuum”, it doesn’t bring causation into doubt. There is absolutely nothing about quantum mechanics that refutes causation.

      In fact, it is self-contradictory to say “That is not causal–as we know it–instead it is borne out of a physical principle.” To say that something is borne out of a physical principle is to say that it has a cause (namely, a physical principle). The decay of a quantum state is an example of causation, not a refutation of it. The problem is that many non-experts tend to confuse “indeterminate cause” for “uncaused”. These are very different concepts.

      All this is to say that, while I agree that ex nihilo an ex materia are very different kinds of causation, the differences are not relevant to the Kalam.

      Much of Scott’s argument is, for the reasons above, demonstrably unscientific. And, while rejecting ex nihilo causation is not directly unscientific, it is an attempt to halt inquiry, which is anti-intellectual.

      Essentially, Scott is asking us to believe that the first stage of the universe (be it a quantum vacuum or anything else) randomly popping into existence from “the absence of anything, even the quantum vacuum” before decaying into our universe is more likely than the idea that something caused it to come into existence. I find that to be an incredible claim, for which he has no support.

      • Allallt

        I implore you to read more of Krauss’ work or, if you are short on time, utilise Youtube to see his conferences and debates… Krauss really is talking about ‘nothing’; the absence of all things. And that state is unstable, for some reason.

        (As a side note, the inductive reasoning _All effects we have seen we have found a cause for, expect multiple effects in quantum mechanics… so we assume quantum mechanics must also all be causal_ is pretty bad reasoning.)

        “From nothing, nothing comes” is an unverified claim. The actual properties and nature of “nothing” is mostly unknown, except for the points Krauss popularises: it’s unstable and breaks down (for some reason). “From nothing, nothing comes” is intuitive, sure. But what evidence have you got to support it?

        • writtenbyafloridian

          “And that state is unstable, for some reason.”

          Huh? I thought Krauss was indicating that quantum fluctuations imply that nothing is unstable and, as such, nothing would always generate something. I don’t see how Krauss can say ‘Nothing is the quantum vacuum, in one sense, and, that that nothing is unstable(although it is anything but nothing), yet, subsequently, say ‘Nothing, in the quantum vacuum sense is unstable, therefore, nothing, meaning not anything, is unstable, without equivocating.

          “From nothing, nothing comes” is an unverified claim…But what evidence have you got to support it?”

          Gravitation. Evolution. Biopoiesis.

          Cheers

        • Allallt

          Can you explain to me how those things demonstrate that from nothing, nothing comes.

        • writtenbyafloridian

          In these specific cases, if nothing* produced something, then we would have no idea what the cause of that something was. We do know or are attempting to know the cause of these somethings. Therefore, in these cases, nothing cannot produce something for if it did we would have no idea of what caused the somethings. We would just have to throw our hands up in failure.

          Let me try it this way: from not a something, not a something comes. Does that make sense to you? If I say nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, I mean not anything can travel faster than the speed of light. So, considering this, if I have nothing, meaning not anything, to build a house, then I cannot proceed to build a house because I have nothing, not anything, to build a house with. You can equivocate on definitions of nothing, but you cannot use nothing, where its function is to negate predicates, as a noun to designate something–all the while, pretending you’ve answered Leibniz’s question, as Krauss does–without equivocating.

          Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. I just refuse to speak with finality on the subject, but I do find nothing producing something less compelling than something producing something. Don’t you? At the very least, you have to admit that it would be the least commonsensical belief to date.

          Cheers

          *Nothing, means not anything.

    • Debilis

      I’ve read Krauss, watched a few of his interviews, and seen him debate. He’s consistently vague on this point, but always ends up clarifying that, by “nothing”, he means some object that can be studied (the quantum vacuum).

      If you know of a place where he’s clarified that he’s actually referring to the absence of all things (even the quantum vacuum), please send me a reference. I’d definitely be interested in seeing it.

      But, if Krauss really is talking about the absence of all things, then he’s simply wrong. By that definition, nothing has no properties. He couldn’t say that it is unstable, and he certainly has no warrant for saying that it is profoundly important. It is things, not the absence of things, which are studied by science. Even in your earlier comment, you mentioned virtual particles, which rise out of the quantum vacuum, not out of an absence of all things.

      Beyond this, there is absolutely no reason do doubt that quantum mechanics is causal. This is again confusing “indeterminate causes” with “lack of causes”. And, at the moment, there isn’t any way of knowing whether or not these causes really are indeterminate, but that is another topic.

      But “from nothing, nothing comes” is the foundation of all rationality. It is the most thoroughly verified claim in human history. It is the basis of all inquiry, and has never been shown to be false, and always been verified.

      There is also another shift here in the sentence “The actual properties and nature of ‘nothing’ is mostly unknown” back to reifying nothing. The absence of all things doesn’t have properties or a nature, it is simply the lack of a thing.

      To draw this out a bit, this is like saying that the absence of a couch has properties. Is it bigger than the absence of a cat? The absence of things is not itself a thing that can be studied about as if it were, itself, a thing.

      This is the problem with berating logic (as Krauss has), it leads one into illogical conclusions.

      So, what evidence is there that nothing comes from nothing? All the evidence in the world (literally). Every single inquiry about every single thing ever been done has shown that “nothing” didn’t cause it. More than that, believing that nothing has properties breaks down into logical absurdities.

      Krauss has no way of showing that “the absence of anything” is what is causing the universe. Either he’s studied its traits, and found it to be able to create universes (in which case, it isn’t simply the absence of anything), or, he’s assuming that because he can’t see what is causing something, it must be the absence of things that is causing it.

      From reading and listening to him, I contend that he’s doing the former. He wrongly thinks that the quantum vacuum energy, which is often referred to as “nothing” by scientists in casual conversation, is the same “nothing” that philosophers use to mean “not anything”.

      • Allallt

        This is actually really simple: you have no examples nothing. You have always been in the reserve if stuff. There is no point in the universe you can point to and go ‘you see just there, there is nothing there’. So you have no examples of nothing doing something or failing in that regard. I will look for a reference when I have a proper device, but Krauss has a debate about whether atheism or Islam is more rational, and I think he clarifies there (warning: the actual debate is terrible).

    • Debilis

      Thanks in advance for the reference, then.

      As to the fact that we have no examples of nothing, wouldn’t that completely refute Krauss’ position?

      If he can’t study nothing, then he can’t tell us that it could create universes.

      The implication here seems to be that, because we can’t study examples of a thing, we can’t know about it. This is true in science, as it is based on inductive inference, but is not true in all fields of study.

      As he has no examples of “nothing”, Krauss can’t claim anything about whether something can come from nothing without leaving science.

      But this only raises the question “what are Krauss’ actual reasons for thinking that something can come from nothing?”. If he isn’t referring to the fact that virtual particles arise from the quantum vacuum, what reason does he have for saying that universes can arise from nothing?

      As to how we know otherwise:
      1. It is the basis of all inquiry (as basic to our knowledge as trust of our senses).

      2. To suggest that things can come into being without causes leaves us wondering why all kinds of things don’t simply pop into existence without a cause.

      If we aren’t talking about the quantum vacuum, then it shouldn’t only be universes that are created by nothing. There is nothing about nothing that should make it more likely to produce universes than anything else. All manner of random things should have been produced.

      If, however, you are saying that nothing has properties that ensure that it only produces some kinds of things (like universes), then we aren’t talking about “not anything”, but about something (like the quantum vacuum).

      3. The principle of sufficient reason really is foundational to science. To say that something can come from nothing is to say that ex nihilo origins and events are entirely possible.

      But science is founded on the idea that something, not the lack of a thing, is the cause of events. It cannot abide ex nihilo explanations for events. Hence, it isn’t remotely scientific to claim that something came from nothing (one more reason why Krauss is abandoning science unless, by nothing, he means some physical object).

  • writtenbyafloridian

    “So, it is not unscientific to _not_ incorporate ex nihilo causation under the ex materia causation we study more often.”

    No, it is not, but it is nonsensical to reject the process whereby certain types of events are always followed by a definite kind of other event. I think that is all Deb is saying.

    Cheers

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