I often wonder do we write off certain religious stances when accepting the title of atheist? how odd is deism, to believe a god, or god like being created the universe but cannot control it past its creation. Scientist are already working on so called 'test tube universes' so why can our universe not be one of them, say a outside force initiated the big bang would it not be a viable explanation for the creation of the universe?

Tags: Deism, absurd, bang, big, universe

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Personally, I don't take being an atheist as an unchangeable position therefore I don't write off anything. But I do look at is as how probable is it. Is it more or less probable that something supernatural was the cause of our universe. If science proved that the big bang couldn't have happened without a conscious catalyst, or outside intelligent force then so be it. Although I still doubt that it would be a supernatural force but rather a natural force that we are as of yet unaware.

As for Deism, it's a non-issue. Being a deist is effectively the same as being an atheist at least in terms of how it impacts your life so I don't really see a point in considering it.
@Dawn K: No, being an atheist is not an unchangeable position and we have no need to add in a background as to why the big bang occurred however if we didn't try to discover the cause we wouldn't be very good as people who desire knowledge. Why must a god like creature be supernatural we may appear as gods to the undiscovered tribes of the amazon, does that mean we are of supernatural origin? A god is being of great power so if a person or persons created a universe through scientific methods they could be considered gods they are not however supernatural. And finally I think it is hugely important to explore as a theory, the Andromeda galaxy has no effect on our everyday life it doesn't make it any less worthy of scientific understanding
I think perhaps you misunderstood when I said "I don't see a point in considering it". I absolutely think we should search for the answer of why and how the big bang happened and didn't say otherwise.

What I said was that I don't see the point (for me as an atheist) considering deism. Perhaps an intelligent alien was responsible for creating our universe. That would be highly interesting and would certainly change our views. I am not a scientist so all I can do anyway is speculate, which while fun is not terribly useful. It is irrelevant to my life at this time.

And finally I think it is hugely important to explore as a theory, the Andromeda galaxy has no effect on our everyday life it doesn't make it any less worthy of scientific understanding
I'm not sure what you are talking about. What should be explored as a theory? Deism?
It was more of an add on to an earlier point, yes deism should be explored as a theory (along with all the other possibilities).
I have no problem with deists. Deism is at least somewhat logical.
they're the only theists who you can have a logical conversation with about their beleifs. most theists today are deist(at least the ones around here zack), with out realizing it generally. theres that huffy girl at crondelet my friend told me about who in some science class asked the teacher "why do we have to do this any way, because god just made everything."
not so bad are the ones with scienctific minds who still choose theism(though that is kind of ....weird) or at least who grew up in an environment where education was given proper respect, 'a moins equal with religion.
your mention of 'test tube universes' reminds me of the simpsons episode where lisa gives her tooth which is in a petri dish of cola a static electric 'zap' and it grows early humans then civilization. i think you might be thinking of multiverse theory though.

deism came about, historically, when modern science was barely emerging. because half of religion was intended to explain natural phenomena which humans did not understand, the first deists in a sense were moving in a big way for the first time towards logical athe/agnosticism, by recognizing those parts of theology for what they were.

donc,(therefore,) i'd consider deism quasi logical, respectable, et c. because it addresses the aforementioned, though not the thought control and fucked spirituality of chirstianity. (deists were all christians; it was born out of the western Enlightenment, so this is the context in which it must be considered).
Deism doesn't contradict with science, isn't dogmatic and doesn't make up absurd stories. Deism also doesn't impede scientific progress; so it's fine with me. Also, it really doesn't sound so illogical to me. Unlike Christianity, Islam, etc.
Deism is truly more benign than theism, and far less binding than any religion, but one would have to ask why believe in any god or gods in the first place? My theory about deists is that they learned about the concept of god from religion, primarily christianity, but disagree with the metaphysical claims of religion. They still believe in god, but try to rationalize his seemingly apathetic stance towards the physical world. Not too bad, but my only question is would they have any idea about god if they didn't know about the religious conceptualizations of god. Furthermore, if they grew up on a deserted island with no exposure to any kind of theism, would they arrive at the same conclusions. I think not.
While Deism is more refined and logical than most forms of theism and religion, I still do not see the reason to insert a god just because we don't have everything about the Big Bang figured out. First of all, this is just the god of the gaps; we don't know, therefore a god.

Putting a god in control of the Big Bang simply causes more problems. Rather than asking how the Big Bang occurred -- and scientists are looking for a rational explanation for that, just as they did with evolution, cosmology, etc. -- we would ask how the god created the Big Bang? How did the god come to be? Is it corporeal or incorporeal? Through what mechanism can it act or have intelligence?

By going to Deism, we aren't answering any questions. We're just making more questions.

James
Big Bang Cosmology and Atheism
Why the Big Bang is No Help to Theists
by Quentin Smith

Since the mid-1960s, scientifically informed theists have been ecstatic because of Big Bang cosmology. Theists believe that the best scientific evidence that God exists is the evidence that the universe began to exist in an explosion about 15 billion years ago, an explosion called the Big Bang. Theists think it obvious that the universe could not have begun to exist uncaused. They argue that the most reasonable hypothesis is that the cause of the universe is God. This theory hinges on the assumption that it is obviously true that whatever begins to exist has a cause.

The most recent statement of this theist theory is in William Lane Craig's 1994 book Reasonable Faith.[1] In it Craig states his argument like this:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.[2]

In a very interesting quote from this book he discusses the first premise and mentions me as one of the perverse atheists who deny the obviousness of this assumption:

The first step is so intuitively obvious that I think scarcely anyone could sincerely believe it to be false. I therefore think it somewhat unwise to argue in favor of it, for any proof of the principle is likely to be less obvious than the principle itself. And as Aristotle remarked, one ought not to try to prove the obvious via the less obvious. The old axiom that "out of nothing, nothing comes" remains as obvious today as ever. When I first wrote The Kalam Cosmological Argument, I remarked that I found it an attractive feature of this argument that it allows the atheist a way of escape: he can always deny the first premise and assert the universe sprang into existence uncaused out of nothing. I figured that few would take this option, since I believed they would thereby expose themselves as persons interested only in academic refutation of the argument and not in really discovering the truth about the universe. To my surprise, however, atheists seem to be increasingly taking this route. For example, Quentin Smith, commenting that philosophers are too often adversely affected by Heidegger's dread of "the nothing," concludes that "the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing" - a nice ending to a sort of Gettysburg address of atheism, perhaps.[3]

A Baseless Assumption

I'm going to criticize this argument from scientific cosmology, which is the most popular argument that scientifically informed theists and philosophers are now using to argue that God exists.

Let's consider the first premise of the argument, that whatever has a beginning to its existence must have a cause. What reason is there to believe this causal principle is true? It's not self-evident; something is self-evident if and only if everyone who understands it automatically believes it. But many people, including leading theists such as Richard Swinburne, understand this principle very well but think it is false. Many philosophers, scientists, and indeed the majority of graduate and undergraduate students I've had in my classes think this principle is false. This principle is not self-evident, nor can this principle be deduced from any self-evident proposition. Therefore, there's no reason to think it's true. It is either false or it has the status of a statement that we do not know is true or false. At the very least, it is clear that we do not know that it is true.

Now suppose the theist retreats to a weaker version of this principle and says, "Whatever has a beginning to its existence has a cause." Now, this does not say that whatever has a beginning to its existence must have a cause; it allows that it is possible that some things begin to exist without a cause. So we don't need to consider it as a self-evident, necessary truth. Rather, according to the theists, we can consider it to be an empirical generalization based on observation.

But there is a decisive problem with this line of thinking. There is absolutely no evidence that it is true. All of the observations we have are of changes in things - of something changing from one state to another. Things move, come to a rest, get larger, get smaller, combine with other things, divide in half, and so on. But we have no observation of things coming into existence. For example, we have no observations of people coming into existence. Here again, you merely have a change of things. An egg cell and a sperm cell change their state by combining. The combination divides, enlarges, and eventually evolves into an adult human being. Therefore, I conclude that we have no evidence at all that the empirical version of Craig's statement, "Whatever begins to exist has a `cause'," is true. All of the causes we are aware of are changes in pre-existing materials. In Craig's and other theists' causal principle, "cause" means something entirely different: it means creating material from nothingness. It is pure speculation that such a strange sort of causation is even possible, let alone even supported in our observations in our daily lives.
An Uncaused Universe

But the more important point is this: not only is there no evidence for the theist's causal assumption, there's evidence against it. The claim that the beginning of our universe has a cause conflicts with current scientific theory. The scientific theory is called the Wave Function of the Universe. It has been developed in the past 15 years or so by Stephen Hawking, Andre Vilenkin, Alex Linde, and many others. Their theory is that there is a scientific law of nature called the Wave Function of the Universe that implies that it is highly probable that a universe with our characteristics will come into existence without a cause. Hawking's theory is based on assigning numbers to all possible universes. All of the numbers cancel out except for a universe with features that our universe possesses, such as containing intelligent organisms. This remaining universe has a very high probability - near 100% - of coming into existence uncaused.

Hawking's theory is confirmed by observational evidence. The theory predicts that our universe has evenly distributed matter on a large scale - that is, on the level of super-clusters of galaxies. It predicts that the expansion rate of our universe - our universe has been expanding ever since the Big Bang - would be almost exactly between the rate of the universe expanding forever and the rate where it expands and then collapses. It also predicts the very early area of rapid expansion near the beginning of the universe called "inflation." Hawking's theory exactly predicted what the COBE satellite discovered about the irregularities of the background radiation in the universe.[4]

So scientific theory that is confirmed by observational evidence tells us that the universe began without being caused. If you want to be a rational person and accept the results of rational inquiry into nature, then you must accept the fact that God did not cause the universe to exist. The universe exists uncaused, in accordance with the Wave Function law.

Now Stephen Hawking's theory dissolves any worries about how the universe could begin to exist uncaused. He supposes that there is a timeless space, a four-dimensional hypersphere, near the beginning of the universe. It is smaller than the nucleus of an atom. It is smaller than 10-33 centimeters in radius. Since it was timeless, it no more needs a cause than the timeless god of theism. This timeless hypersphere is connected to our expanding universe. Our universe begins smaller than an atom and explodes in a Big Bang, and here we are today in a universe that is still expanding.

Is it nonetheless possible that God could have caused this universe? No. For the Wave Function of the Universe implies that there is a 95% probability that the universe came into existence uncaused. If God created the universe, he would contradict this scientific law in two ways. First, the scientific law says that the universe would come into existence because of its natural, mathematical properties, not because of any supernatural forces. Second, the scientific law says that the probability is only 95% that the universe would come into existence. But if God created the universe, the probability would be 100% that it would come into existence because God is allpowerful. If God wills the universe to come into existence, his will is guaranteed to be 100% effective.

So contemporary scientific cosmology is not only not supported by any theistic theory, it is actually logically inconsistent with theism.
Notes

1. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994)
2. Ibid., p. 92
3. Ibid.
4. Confirmation of Hawking's theory is consistent with this theory being a reasonable proposal for the form that an (as yet) undeveloped theory of quantum gravity will take, as Hawking himself emphasizes. See Chapter 12, William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).

http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/smith_18_2.html
http://www.braungardt.com/Physics/Vacuum%20Fluctuation.htm

This site has some interesting quotes about vacuum fluctuations and how the universe could possibly have originated from nothing.

James

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