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Cosmology is the scientific study of the origin and structure of the universe. In the Christian worldview, God (a self-existent, eternal and transcendent being) caused the universe to come into existence. In the atheist worldview, there was no cause for the universe coming into existence; rather, the universe came into existence from nothing, by nothing and, ultimately, for nothing.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God states that since anything that comes into existence must have a cause for it’s coming into existence and since logic and science teach the universe came into existence (i.e., it had a beginning), the universe had to have had a cause for its coming into existence. Accordingly, Christian apologists maintain the Bible’s explanation that the universe was caused to come into existence by a self-existent, eternal, transcendent Creator is a much more satisfying explanation than the atheist’s explanation that the universe came into existence without a cause — from nothing, by nothing and, ultimately, for nothing.
A Clash of World Views: What is the best explanation for the universe coming into existence? A transcendent Creator or that the universe came into existence from nothing, by nothing and, ultimately, for nothing (as proposed by the atheist worldview)? (skip to >>)
Premise No. 1: Anything that begins to exist must have a cause ( >>);
Premise No. 2: The universe began to exist (>>);
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe must have a cause for its coming into existence (>>)
Is the Bible’s Description of God’s Creation Consistent with what Logic and Science Have Reasonably Established to be True About the Universe Coming into Existence? (skip to >>)
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
The says the universe was formed at God’s command from nothing that preceded it.
Contrary to the description of the universe provided in the Bible, atheists maintain there was no cause for the universe coming into existence; rather, the universe came into existence from nothing. Skeptic and British philosopher, Anthony Kenny, stated it this way:
An atheist believes the “universe came from nothing, by nothing“.
Dr. Peter Atkins of Oxford University (an atheist) provided the following explanation of how the universe came into existence from nothing:
“The creation of the universe occurred when no charge separated into opposite charges. Nothing separated into opposites. There is no need for a cause for this reorganization of nothing because there was no causality before space-time came into existence, i.e., it is not necessary to identify a cause for anything occurring before the universe was created because there was no space-time for cause to occur in before the universe came into existence.“
But, as queried by William Lane Craig, how does “no charge” separate into anything? How does nothing separate into opposites? How does nothing reorganize into anything?
The explanation that something can naturally arise from, or separate from, absolutely nothing (no time, no space, no matter, no energy) or as a result of a reorganization of nothing is far from a compelling explanation for anything, much less something as complex as the universe. [For more on the complexity observed in the universe, go here]
As set forth below, Christian apologists maintain that Kalam’s Cosmological Argument further undermines the proposition that the universe could have come into existence out of nothing.
The argument does not purport to prove the existence of the God, but it does purport to establish that any logical explanation for the existence of the universe must include a cause for the universe coming into existence. To this extent, the argument supports the Bible’s claim that God (a self-existent, eternal, transcendent being) brought the universe into existence and inconsistent with the atheists’ proposition that the universe came into existence without a cause.
The argument consists of the following three elements:
Premise No. 1: Anything that begins to exist must have a cause ( >>);
Premise No. 2: The universe began to exist (>>);
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe must have a cause for its coming into existence (>>)
Deductively, if both of the above premises are true, the conclusion must also be true. Therefore, anyone attempting to defeat the argument must prove at least one of the premises is false. However, as set forth below, Christian apologists contend that since life experience, logic and scientific findings demonstrate both premises to be true beyond reasonable doubt, the conclusion that the universe must have had a cause for its coming into existence is also true.
The first premise of the argument is that anything which begins to exist must have a cause for its coming into existence. In other words, nothing that has a beginning to its existence does so without a cause. That which has a beginning must have something preceding it or it could not begin.
The truth of this premise is experienced in everyday life because no one has ever seen anything come into existence out of true nothing (i.e., no matter, no energy, no space and no time). Although some skeptics point to observations in quantum mechanics in which things appear to pop into existence “out of nothing”, these subatomic events do not truly arise out of true nothing (e.g., no space-time). They arise in empty space-time which is not nothing. Since no one has ever demonstrated anything coming into existence out of “true nothing”, Christian apologists maintain that no rational rebuttal exists to the first premise of Kalam’s Cosmological Argument – that anything which begins to exist must have a cause for doing so.
Christian apologists further point out that since “chance” does not have the power to produce anything (more>>), then unless and until a natural mechanism is identified by which the universe could have come into existence out of true nothing (i.e., no matter, no energy, no space and no time) without a cause, it is unreasonable for atheists to insist people deny what they experience in everyday life to always be true; namely, things which come into existence always have a cause for doing so. Further, as explained by Christian apologists and astrophysicists Hugh Ross and Jeff Zweerink (see, www.reasons.org), because Einstein’s theory of General Relativity establishes that no observer in this universe can ever directly observe or test for anything that exists outside the space-time envelope of this universe, naturalists will never be able to provide direct evidence that any such mechanism actually exists. Rather, naturalists will always have to speculate that such a mechanism exists and that it is capable of producing this universe, as well as the infinite number of other hypothesized universes naturalists rely on to attempt to explain all the exquisitely fine-tuned design features scientists have discovered in our universe which permits life to exist (more>>). Arno Penzias, a Nobel laureate in physics, suggests a reason why naturalists might rely on such speculation:
Some people are uncomfortable with the purposeful created world [because a purposeful created world implies the existence of a purposeful Agent]. To come up with other things that contradict purpose, they tend to speculate about things they haven’t seen.
The second premise of the cosmological argument is that the universe began to exist. According to this premise, the universe came into existence a finite time ago — it is not eternal or in a steady state.
As outlined below, Christian apologists maintain Premise No. 2 is firmly supported by both logic as well as findings of modern day science:
Logic Demands the Conclusion that the Universe had a Beginning
If the universe did not have a beginning, then the series of all past events in the universe would have to be infinite. But, logic teaches that the events we observe in the universe cannot go back to infinity for at least two reasons:
Reason No. 1 — An Actual Infinity with Respect to a Series of Past Causal Events Would Result in Absurdities: Something is absurd when it is utterly or obviously illogical. In this case, when an actual infinity of a series of past causal events is contemplated, a number of absurdities are brought to light. For example, while we experience one year being added to the next and then to the next, trying to add to (or subtract from) an actual infinity is absurd. This is because if you add to an actual infinity you still have infinity and if you subtract from an actual infinity you still have an infinity.
In a series of past events that proceed forward with the passage of time, one year is added to the next year, followed by the next year and so on. This is what we experience as each year passes in our lives. Since we are, in fact, able to add one year to the next year and then the next year, no actual infinity of years can truly exist, because you can not add anything to an actual infinity.
“Imagine a library with an actually infinite number of books. Suppose further that there is an infinite number of red books and an infinite number of black books in the library. Does it really make sense to say that there are as many black books in the library as there are red and the black books together? Surely not. Furthermore, I could withdraw all the black books and not change the total holdings in the library. Let us also assume that each book has an actual infinite number of pages. There would be just as many pages in the first book in the library as there are in the entire, infinite collection. If someone reads the first book, she would read just as many pages as someone who read every page of every book in the library!” [J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, pg. 23 (1987)]
Because it is illogical to attempt to add to or subtract from an actual infinity, logic teaches that when events or time are added one after the other (like years being added to the passage of time), then the series is not truly infinite (without a beginning or end). Since we do add years to the passage of time, that tells us that the universe is not actually infinite and, therefore, must have had a beginning at some point in the past.
Reason No. 2 — An Actual Infinity Can Never Come to an End: An actual infinity can never come to an end because, by definition, an actual infinity is endless. However, in the universe all past series of events do come to an end — they come to the end in the present. Since past events come to an end in the present and because an actual infinity cannot, by definition, come to an end, an infinite number of past events in the universe cannot logically exist. Therefore, the universe cannot be infinite and must have had a beginning.
In sum, if the universe did not have a beginning, then the series of all past events in the universe would have to be infinite. However, logic teaches this cannot be the case which means the universe must have had a beginning.
[See, William Lane Craig, On Guard, pgs. 73-101 (2010); J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, pgs. 22-33 (1987); Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, pgs. 58-59 (1994); J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, pgs. 468-476 (2003)]
Much of the scientific evidence regarding the universe coming into existence (which means it had a beginning) derives from Big Bang cosmology which describes the universe as suddenly and rapidly expanding from an initial singularity.
Initially, it must be noted that many Christians reject Big Bang cosmology on theological grounds for one or both of the following reasons: 1) they believe the Big Bang necessarily eliminates the need for a Creator and/or 2) they believe Big Bang cosmology (which dates the age of the universe to 13-14 billion years) contradicts the creation account set forth in Genesis 1 (more). There is no question that vigorous debate exists among Christians over how the creation account in Genesis 1 is to be interpreted.
Although there are several competing views about how the Genesis Creation Account should be interpreted, the views basically fall into two major camps: 1) Young Earth Creationists (YECs) and 2) Old Earth Creationists (OECs).
Generally, YECs believe the Bible requires a view that God created the world in six consecutive 24 hour days about 6,000 – 12,000 years ago (more). OECs believe the biblical creation account (originally written in ancient Hebrew) permits a creation date that is consistent with the universe coming into existence about 13-14 billion years ago and the Earth forming about 4-5 billion years ago, as proposed by secular scientists (more).
Regardless of one’s particular view on the correct interpretation of Genesis, it is worth noting that if Big Bang cosmology is true (and even if it is only assumed to be true for the sake of argument), it substantiates an important element of Kalam’s Cosmological Argument, namely, that the universe had a beginning and a beginning to the universe is markedly consistent with the creation account recorded in Genesis.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.“ — Genesis 1:1
Big Bang cosmology not only states the universe had a beginning, it also points to a transcendent cause of the universe which poses significant challenges to the validity of any religion which teaches: 1) God and the universe are one, 2) describes God as being confined to the universe or 3) describes God as creating from within the universe or within time. Contrarily, a transcendent cause of the universe is remarkably consistent with the self-existent (more) and transcendent (more) God described in the Bible
With those thoughts in mind, the following is a sampling of the scientific proofs that have been offered as evidence of the universe having a beginning a finite period of time ago, expanding from an initial singularity (a beginning):
● Telescopic Evidence of a Beginning
In the 1920’s, Edwin Hubble (the man the Hubble Space Telescope was named after) provided telescopic evidence that the universe is expanding and that it is expanding the same in all directions. He also demonstrated that the further away galaxies were from Earth, the faster they were speeding away. From these observations, it was deduced that the universe (which includes all space, time, matter and energy) has been, and still is, expanding from an initial singularity (a beginning).
The expansion of the universe from an initial singularity can best be visualized as an inflating balloon where the universe exists on the three dimensional surface of the balloon. In such a model, every observer in a galaxy located on the surface of the “balloon” will observe others moving away from them in all directions, as Hubble observed the universe was doing.
● Evidence of a Beginning from the Discovery of Microwave Background Radiation
In 1948, scientists predicted that if there was an sudden expansion of space and energy from an initial singularity, then when astronomers looked back in time to the initial expansion event (as they are able to do with telescopes), they would find trace evidence of the expansion in the form of microwave background radiation. It was reasoned that if the universe began to expand from an initial singularity, then shortly after the initial expansion, all the radiation in the universe would have been uniformly spread out throughout the universe. In 1965, with the use of a radio telescope (a telescope which “sees” radio waves), two physicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, discovered the microwave background radiation. Indeed, the microwave background radiation is what is heard as static noise on televisions and radios equipped with antennae. Thirty six years later, beginning in 2001 and continuing for seven years, scientists were able to map the microwave background radiation with the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). The map shows the microwave background radiation basically spread out in uniform fashion showing beginning signs of temperature variations.
● Evidence of a Beginning from the Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLOT)
According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLOT), all of the energy in the universe will eventually move into a state of “thermal equilibrium” where everything in the universe will be the same temperature. We can see SLOT working on a very small scale in our every day lives. For example, when we walk into a room and find a hot cup of tea, we deduce the tea has not been in the room very long because if it had, the tea would have cooled down to the temperature of the room. Based on this same principle, if the universe was infinite (eternal, without any beginning), the temperature in the universe would be in a state of “thermal equilibrium” where everything is the same temperature. However, if a Big Bang creation event occurred a finite time ago (even 13.7 billion years ago as modern day scientists postulate), then one would expect to find varying degrees of heat throughout the universe. Only after an immensely long period of time (much longer than 13.7 billion years) would the energy in the universe eventually disperse into a state of “thermal equilibrium.”
At the present time, the temperature in the universe is not in a state of “thermal equilibrium”; temperatures still greatly vary. For example, the average surface temperature of the earth is 59° (F), the average temperature on the surface of the sun is 11,000° (F) and the average temperatures of the hottest stars in the universe range from 53,000° – 179,000° (F). According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the fact that the present temperature in the universe is so unequal is evidence that the universe must have had a beginning in finite time.
● Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity
In the early 1900s, Albert Einstein (a theoretical physicist) proposed the theory of general relativity, which has now been so exhaustively tested that it is considered one of the best proven principles in all of physics. The theory of general relativity establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the universe has been expanding from an initial event that occurred in the finite past. It further establishes that whatever caused the universe had to transcend the universe, i.e., it had to exist independently of the universe.
At the time Einstein developed the theory of General Relativity many scientists were so convinced that the universe was eternal and, therefore, did not need a cause, that Einstein was persuaded to add an element to his equation called the “cosmological constant”. This element had the effect of cancelling out expansion of the universe from the equations of General Relativity, thereby permitting cosmological theories based on the premise that the universe was eternal to remain plausible.
It was subsequently determined that the cosmological constant (denoted by the Greek capital letter Λ) as used by Einstein in his general relativity equations, did not exist. Since then, scientists have determined that a cosmological constant of a different sort exists, but it does not cancel out the expansion of the universe and, therefore, does not eliminate the need for a transcendent cause of the universe.
In 1970, Stephen Hawking (a theoretical physicist and cosmologist) and Roger Penrose (a mathematical physicist) developed a mathematical theorem which demonstrates that if the universe contains any amount of mass (even one atom) and the dynamics of the universe are governed by Einstein’s theory of general relativity (one of the best proven theories in all of physics), then time itself must be finite and must have come into existence at the same time the universe came into existence. In other words, not only did all energy, matter and space come into existence at a finite point in the past, but “time” itself came into existence.
● The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem
In 2003, Arvin Borde, Alexander Vilenkin and Alan Guth published a theorem proving that any universe which, on average, has been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past, but must have a past space-time boundary — a beginning. Moreover, this proof remains true no matter what physical description is ascribed to the early universe.
The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem further implies that even if the universe is just one of multiple universes, then the multiverse itself must have an absolute beginning. As noted by Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, “Vilenkin is blunt about the implications of the theorem: ‘It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape. They have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.'” [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, “How did the Universe Begin”, Part 1 (aired on NRB 12/3/2012)]
In sum, based on the logical impossibility of there being an actual infinite number of past events as well as scientific evidence which demonstrate the universe came into existence a finite period of time ago, Christian apologists maintain the second premise of Kalam’s Cosmological Argument (that the universe began to exist) has been established beyond any reasonable doubt.
Because everything that comes into existence must have a cause to bring it into existence (see, Premise No. 1 above) and because logic and findings of science establish beyond reasonable doubt that the universe came into existence a finite period of time ago (see, Premise No. 2 above), then the universe must have had a cause for its coming into existence.
As argued by Christian apologist, William Lane Craig, although a person is free to reject Kalam’s Cosmological Argument, they must do so even though, on balance, the premises of the argument are more plausible than their negations. Consequently, it seems the only reason one would reject the premises would be due to a personal bias against the conclusion that the universe must have a cause for its coming into existence. [William Lane Craig in sit down discussion after a debate with Peter Atkins]
The Bible states the cause of the universe coming into existence was God — a self-existent, eternal, transcendent being. Since a God with these attributes is consistent with what logic and science teach to be true about any potential cause of the universe (more>>), Christian apologists assert that only a prejudice toward atheism would cause someone to refuse to acknowledge that it is at least reasonable to believe in a transcendent creator like the God described in the Bible.
It is further maintained that unless substantial proof is presented that an exception to the universal and well-established principle of cause and effect actually exists, the existence of an intelligent, transcendent cause of the universe (like the God described in the Bible) is the most rational explanation for the existence of the universe as well as all the exquisitely fine-tuned design features scientists have discovered exist throughout the universe (more>>).
Because everything that comes into existence must have a cause to bring it into existence and because laws of logic and findings of science establish beyond reasonable doubt that the universe must have come into existence a finite period of time ago, then the most reasonable conclusion is that the universe must have had a cause for its coming into existence. Consequently, as set forth above, Christian apologists maintain the Bible’s explanation that the universe was caused to come into existence by a self-existent, eternal, transcendent creator is a much more satisfying explanation than the atheist’s explanation that the universe came into existence without a cause — from nothing, by nothing and, ultimately, for nothing.
Additionally, God’s existence is supported by the additional independent lines of argumentation, including the following:
- God’s existence best explains why anything exists rather than nothing (an argument for the existence of a “first uncaused cause”) (more>>)
- God’s existence best explains all the mind-boggling, just-right design features scientists have discovered throughout the universe which make it possible for life to exist in the universe (the Intelligent Design aka Teleological Argument) (more>>)
- God’s existence best explains the existence of objective morality
- God’s existence best explains man’s search for, and innate belief in, meaning, purpose and significance.
© 2012 by Andrina G. Hanson
Published: May 25, 2012 / Last Updated: July 22, 2017
QUICK LINKS TO SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE
Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, 20 Compelling Evidences That God Exists: Discover Why Believing In God Makes so Much Sense, pgs. 52-60 (River Oak Publishing, 2002)
Peter J. Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, pg. 58 (IVP Academic; 1St Edition, 1994)
J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, 18-42 (Baker Academic, 1987)
J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, pgs. 465, 468-481 (IVP Academic, 2003)
Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God, pgs. 23-108 (Navpress; 2 edition, 1995)
Kenneth Richard Samples, World of Difference, A: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe), 162-163(Baker Books, 2007)
IMAGE CREDITS & LICENSING
Slideshow Photo: Photo of the Carina Nebula located approximately 6,500 – 10,000 light years from Earth in the Carina-Sagittarius arm. The image was taken by NASA, ESA and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STSci)) (downloaded from www.nasa.gov) License: Public Domain
Genesis 1:1: “The History of Creation” by Jouni Paavilainen (downloaded from ChristianPhotos.Net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications)
Hubble Telescope: The Hubble telescope with the earth in the background. Image Credit: NASA (downloaded from www.nasa.gov) License: Public Domain.
Radio Telescope: A photograph of the Holmdel horn radio antenna used by radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson to detect the cosmic microwave background radiation. Penzias and Wilson received the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery. The image was taken by “Fabioj” and downloaded from www.wikimedia.org which states the image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (CC-BY-SA-3.0) license.
WMAP: A collage created by NASA and the WMAP Team showing the WMAP spacecraft with a map of the Cosmic Microwave Background in the background. The image was downloaded from www.wikimedia.org) which states the image file is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA.
Albert Einstein: A 1921 photograph by Ferdinand Schmutzer (1870–1928) of Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna. The image was downloaded from wkikmedia.org which states the image is in the public domain in those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 80 years or less.