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BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by BanJoIvie

Comment 6 by Daniel Cabral

Hi Daniel!

The power of such occurrences must be simply astounding.

I couldn't agree more. The universe is filled with phenomena of such scope, scale and power that our minds are literally unequipped to fully take them on. We are unbelievably lucky to live in a time when so much is known and being learned, and when this trove of knowledge is openly available to anyone for the asking.

What caused all this?

All this? Do you mean the specific phenomenon of stellar jets? If so there is plenty of information available. A Google search of key terms in this article would be a great place to start finding the very available answers to this question.

However, I suspect you are not really asking what causes stellar jets. I think you have a different agenda...

The universe...

Aha! So by "all this" you really meant "ALL this." A bit of a non sequitur, but okay.

began to exist…

Well, hold on there. We don't actually know that, and the likelihood of its being true depends what you mean by “began to exist.”

Current models can accurately trace the broad history of our universe all the way back to a fraction of a second after the beginning of the expansion which is often called the big bang. But no one can say anything authoritative about what happened prior to that split second – other than, “it’s unknown at this time.”

There are many competing and mutually exclusive theories about what state the universe was in before it started to expand. Early models assumed that the universe “exploded” from a single point of infinite mass and density called a singularity. These models, I am told, are not particularly popular among current cosmologists, but not disproved either. In any case, even if the universe expanded from a singularity, such an infinite point would certainly not be “nothing.”

It is also possible that our universe could have been in some sort of reasonably stable state (with values short of infinity) for an unknown period. It (or another ”parent” universe) might have come to the completion of a period of deflation or contraction before reaching some absolute barrier of density and reversing course.

Time itself may have started - or at least taken on its current fixed directionality - near the start of the big bang - so that there literally is no such thing as “before” then (just like there is no such thing as “north” of the north pole.) In this case it might make sense to say that the universe - along with time - “began to exist” as expansion began, but it would still be nonsensical to infer that it did not exist “before” it began, since the very idea of “before” only became possible when time started. (I know it hurts my brain too.)

There are more possibilities than this, and none is yet proven to any sane cosmologist’s satisfaction. In any case, it’s an unwarranted presumption to simply state that the universe “began to exist” at start of the big bang. We simply do not have the data (or the math) to state with that level of certainty what the universe was like “before” it started expanding. But we might someday. A lot of brilliant minds are working on it, and thank goodness they aren’t satisfied with easy, unhelpful answers – like say the theistic hypothesis.

billions of years ago.

Approximately 14 billion, give or take. Since the start of the big bang anyway. “Before” that…?

Nothing comes from nothing.

Another hugely presumptuous statement. Asserted with such confidence, as if it were a law – though I can’t imagine what possible basis you might have for deriving it. Do you have any actual basis other than intuition? I suspect not. If so, I would love to hear it.

To begin with, what do you mean by nothing? While you might think this is self-evident, it is actually a very profound question. Does “nothing” exist anywhere in our universe? Would a vacuum meet your definition of nothing? If so, you are quite mistaken in your assertion that nothing can come from it. According to some theories, virtual particles can and do pop into and out of existence in a vacuum all the time. Even if those theories proved incorrect, this means that there is no absolute barrier to “something coming from nothing” even inside our universe.

However, you could make the reasonable point that a vacuum is not “nothing” since it still contains space-time (and possibly these tiny particles popping in and out of existence all over the place.) If “something” comes from a vacuum, that doesn’t prove that something can come from “nothing.” Okay, but now you have the problem that “nothing” in this sense is absolutely unknown to any human experience or observation. We have never seen this complete “nothing” nor could we even coherently understand it if it did exist. By what possible means then could we derive knowledge about its properties, such as “nothing can come from it?” How could that statement even make sense, if “nothing” does not exist in our universe, and is completely unlike anything we have ever understood? How would we justify relying upon our intuitions – which arise from all the “something” we see around us - to tell us what “nothing” can or can’t do? We might use various mathematical models to make predictions about “nothing” but even that would involve assumptions that some sort of order could be applied in a realm of nothing, and such order itself might be considered “something.”

For all we know, “nothing” - if such a thing is even possible - might have the property of continuously spewing forth “somethings” all the time. Indeed, various mathematical models of “nothing” predict that it would be inherently very unstable and tend to spontaneously create stuff quite readily.

Since the universe is something

Well, no, actually the universe is everything. (At least everything that we know exists and can meaningfully learn about. Although we can predict the possible existence of other universes, we could not knowledgeabley say much about the nature of existence within any of them.)

It may seem pedantic to make such a distinction between, something and everything, but it is actually very important. See below.

it must come from something.

You just can’t know that about the universe as a whole, even if every single “something” we know of besides the universe could be proven to “come from something.” Anything we are able to state about the qualities and properties of “something” is derived from our observation of “somethings” that exist within the universe. It is a classical fallacy (known as the fallacy of composition.) to infer that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part).

This example from wikipedia illustrates the fallacy:

1) Human cells are invisible to the naked eye.

2) Humans are made up of human cells.

3) Therefore, humans are invisible to the naked eye.

See the problem?

We cannot say that just because something is true everywhere we look within the universe, that it is true of the universe as a whole, because the universe cannot be meaningfully said to be within itself. If the universe is within something, that something could very easily have different laws of cause and effect than the ones we have evolved to understand.

What does atheism propose…?

That there is insufficient reason to believe in the existence of any God or Gods. Period. That’s it.

…what does atheism say caused the universe?

"Atheism" has nothing whatsoever to say on that subject.

Science, however, says quite a bit, and I invite you to begin studying if you are really interested in what caused the universe. The field in which you should begin reading though, is called “cosmology” NOT theology.

Even asking, “what does atheism say caused the universe?” reveals a deep misunderstanding of atheism, as well as a glaringly bad assumption on your part.

You are erecting a false dichotomy, as if theistic claims about creation must be true by default if “atheists” cannot adequately explain the origin of our present universe. Even if there were absolutely zero ideas about how the universe could come about naturally, that would not advance the claim of a theistic cause one bit. If you prove that someone else doesn’t know what caused the universe that doesn’t establish that you do. You have to actually demonstrate your knowledge independently of competing claims, and upon what basis you know it, and that that basis is sound.

Cosmologists know much more about the origin of the universe than either you or I. And although the majority of them happen to be atheists – especially the leaders in their field – their knowledge of cosmology is not derived from atheism, but from years of diligent study and hard work.

From what I can tell, the best answer these experts can presently give to the question, “What caused the universe?” is, “no one knows for sure, but we’re working on it and we have some pretty interesting ideas.”

It is just hubris to imply that their hard earned lack of certainty is sufficient reason to claim superior knowledge in the form of an easy (and unsatisfactory) answer derived from ancient myth. If “god” really was a supportable and sufficient explanation for the creation of our cosmos, then cosmologists could close their books and happily turn their attention to question without answers.

In any case, atheism is completely tangential to the question of “what caused the universe?” And so is theism for that matter – except for the fact that many theistic claims are intrinsically dependent upon a divine origin of the universe.

So tell me, if there was a breakthrough tomorrow, and a team of scientists announced a discovery which completely and definitively describes the process of universe creation through natural processes, would you accept that as proof that your god does not exist? If your answer is anything but “yes, absolutely,” then cosmology is simply not central to your belief in a god. You do your faith a disservice to prop it up with gaps in our current scientific understanding.

As a Christ follower I agree with the cosmological argument…

To me, this is a complete non sequitur. What does your choice to “follow” Christ have to do with your acceptance of the cosmological argument? My understanding is that the cosmological argument attempts to derive theism rationally from the principles of observation, science and reason, NOT the other way around.

Do you believe that Jesus has instructed his followers to accept this specific line of reasoning? Does your belief in Jesus mean that you accept or reject a logical conclusion by fiat rather than because of the soundness and validity of its premises and structure?

Perhaps you mean to say “Because I agree with the cosmological argument, I am a Christ follower?” Although that would also require a huge leap on your part, since the argument does not even attempt to establish the truth of the Christian god per se, merely a creator god of some kind.

Actually, your use of the specific phrase “began to exist” makes it pretty clear that you’ve been influenced by William Lane Craig’s very silly version of the already very silly Kalam Cosmological Argument. Here, here, and here are some places to start learning just how fallacious this argument is. If the Cosmological argument in its various forms could be disproved to you, would you feel compelled to stop “following” Jesus?

I suspect that your Christ following does not stem directly from the KCA, and I hope you would not wish to claim that you accept the KCA only because you follow Christ. It seems more probable that your unnecessary insertion of Jesus into a discussion about stellar jets is some sort of attempt to “witness” to atheists or to take a “bold stance” of some kind instead of just enjoying the science.

that God caused the universe into existence.

This is a good place to ask what you mean by “caused” in this context. The very notion of causality is inherently linked to our understanding of time, and to the affect/effect relationship. These in turn are derived from the laws of nature as they exist within our universe.

In every case which we know, to “cause something to come into existence” means to act upon existing material in such a way as to make it take on the properties of a new thing. If this is what you mean when you say, “God caused the universe into existence,” Then you must believe in a creation ex materia, meaning that God created the universe from already existing stuff. In that case one could reasonably ask where all of that pre-universe stuff came from, by way of pointing out that you don’t explain anything by positing a god in this scenario.

However, you earlier implied instead that God is necessary to explain a universe coming from “nothing.” I might infer from that that you believe in creation ex nihilo. To use the word “cause” seems wrong in such a case, since ex nihilo creation would be unlike any case of cause and effect we know. To speak of “causing” the universe, may be simply incoherent.

Afterall He…

I’ve always wondered why it is sensible to refer to a monotheistic god as male. The very invocation of gender would seem to imply at least two entities. The doctrine of the trinity multiplies the entities to three (and somehow also not, but don’t get me started) but still no female is included in the mix of deities. If there is no She, then why is God a He?

Back when I was a Mormon I took a lot of pleasure in the thought that at lest we had a coherent answer for this question. God was obviously a he, because he has a real live, physical, holy penis. He also has a wife (or probably wives) so that there is a reason for gender assignment in this scenario.

The traditional Christian “Father” god is not a physically embodied being, nor does he reproduce sexually, so the presence of gender in reference to “Him” seems odd. Is it just poetic license? Is God just as much a She as a He? If so, all the centuries of misogyny seem like a waste. Oh, and just try saying “Our Mother who art in Heaven…” in your average congregation and see how far it gets you.

But I digress…

…is timeless…

More incoherence. These two words make no sense in tandem. How can something “be” (ie we can say, it “is”) in the absence of time. (If something “is” we can ask “where is it?” and if something “is” somewhere, we can ask, “when did it get there?” Without time this makes no sense.) Existence as we understand it is a function of temporality.

…with limitless power.

Even most “sophisticated theologians” recognize that this is illogical nonsense, and would load a phrase like this down with qualifiers like “limitless power…to do all things possible which are consistent with His nature.” For example does god have the “power” to limit his own power? To make a square circle? To do evil? Etc.


Sat, 03 Sep 2011 01:57:20 UTC | #866790