Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Deny God, multiply miracles

Unthinking atheists are the quintessential example of missing the forest for the trees. They are so busy with their heads scrunched close to the books, blogs, and pretentious pop-science articles that simply take for granted a materialistic universe that they are hopelessly unable to see the impossibility of such.

With this basic twist firmly embedded in their minds, we are continuously treated to such bold and arrogant assertions of stupidity that it is a daunting challenge to respond. Why should we think, after all, any amount of correction with logically unavoidable conclusions would deter such a one? If they are that stupid, and proud of it, why bother?

But, though some will be caught in the end by their pride, there are still, hopefully, some who are able to swallow their pride and admit their folly. And pride is the problem, make no mistake. People can usually deal with being wrong, but only to a degree. When once they've proudly and loudly proclaimed something they are convinced of, no matter how clear evidence to the contrary is, the possibility that their pride will not allow them to admit their error is extremely high.

Today I'd like to deal with what is really a very basic and general first-level problem for the materialistic worldview.

What does it mean to the materialistic universe if one denies the existence of God?

Well, there really is no free lunch. If God is denied, obviously He is out as a candidate for creating and ordering the universe. All that is left for us, unless someone wants to (wimpily) attempt a semi-god argument just to avoid some tricky problems, are material causes. "Fine by me," our materialist friends would say. But nothing is fine in that case at all.

If material causes for the material universe is all we have, we have a very big problem, which is dealt with, generally, one of two ways, neither being reasonable. One way is to say that the universe literally just popped into existence out of nothing for no reason. Perhaps, philosophically speaking, we would say that this is, strictly, possible. It seems that in philosophy, and more so in the hard sciences, impossible is a word that is nearly banned. In philosophy, it seems that it is acceptable to say "impossible" when two concepts are clearly contradictory; either one or the other can be true, but not both.

So it seems to me that the universe popping into existence from nothing for no reason is really a probability problem. So what are the probabilities that such is plausible? Well, if I'm not allowing myself the word "impossible", then whatever the next least likely probability is on the scale, it would have to just barely reach it. If the universe popped into existence with no cause from nothing, then it is describing a scenario that has never, ever been seen before. And not only that, it is disconfirmed in that, what we do see, is exactly the counter of things happening without causes; namely, things are caused by material effects. And it is really even more than that that we see. We see things caused not just by any material cause, but by material causes that have the sufficient properties to explain the effects they cause. Now if this is the case (and it clearly is), then to say that the universe popped into existence, uncaused, from nothing, is essentially saying that a miracle happened. And what kind of miracle would that be? A very, very big miracle indeed, for not only was something caused by nothing, but something very great was caused, and even more, it was caused by what, by definition, did not hold the sufficient properties to cause what it supposedly did.

So, in ridding the universe of miracles and non-material causes by denying God leads to an even more improbable miracle lying at the base of our universe. For while God is clearly a miraculous being, at least this being as defined is able to cause the effects in question. Denying God does not rid the universe of the supernatural, but actually makes the universe more, and more strangely, supernatural. G.K. Chesterton said, "Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural."

So, it seems that this way is not a very convincing or appealing one for atheists. And what about the second general way to deal with a materialistic universe, then? It is a bit unmanly I think, but even if that wasn't the case, it actually does rise to the level (or stoop to the level?) of an impossibility.

First, as to why it is unmanly. What the idea really is attempting to do is simply avoid the problem and not really deal with it at all. The idea is that the universe has always existed, in some form, forever. The attempt is to just say, basically, "No reasons needed. It's just a brute fact."

This idea is simply untenable, however. It is well understood that an actual infinite is an impossibility. It leads to intractable problems --- contradictions. If the universe has always existed, for example, it would mean that there was an infinite number of seconds, or moments, prior to this moment. Now what that means is that it is not possible to ever reach, from eternity past, to the present moment. To think about it from the present, imagine trying to go back to eternity. Let's say you jump in a time machine and travel back 300 trillion years. When you arrive, how much closer to eternity past will you be? Will you have traveled half way? A quarter? Actually, you'll have made no progress at all. You'll still have an eternity to go. And no matter how far back you travel, you'll never get closer than an eternity. You'll always still have an eternity to go.

Obviously, the problem is the same in either direction. Without an absolute beginning, a starting point in a finite past, we are unable to get to the present. And yet, here we are.

So, the second general way of dealing with denying God is not only a weak attempt at sweeping the problem under the rug, but when it is thought about for half a moment we see that it's just not possible anyway.

I've pointed this out to many atheists, and what most often comes back is either that they are not interested in OOL, origin of life theories (I don't know why they don't say OOU, but . . .), or that the multiverse theory has dealt with this problem. Unfortunately for them, not being interested in a problem for your worldview doesn't stave it off, and the multiverse theory doesn't solve the problem for an absolute beginning necessary to the material universe. The multiverse theory is just a fancy idea of what an eternally existing universe might look like, but it is still positing an eternally existing universe, even if there is some supposed "universe generator" mechanism churning out universes by the billions a second. Either the material universe started a finite time ago, or it has existed forever. It has not, because it cannot have, existed forever, so it started a finite time ago.

This, then, kicks us back to idea number one, that the universe began a finite time ago, but it came into existence, uncaused, from nothing. That, my friend, again, is just a strange miracle that makes immeasurably less sense than God.

So, it seems, to deny God, you are still faced with a miracle. But let's call this miracle Miracle Number 1. There, then, follow uncountable other miracles if God is denied.

 If the universe came into existence, uncaused, from nothing, then the order we observe in the universe is inexplicable except by yet another strange miracle. Why should planets orbit stars? You'll laugh and say it is due to gravity and laws of motion, and, depending on your education in astrophysics, a longer or shorter list of other things. But this is only an observation of what things we find in association with planets orbiting stars, and not an answer as pertains to cause. When we spill a jar of marbles on the floor, there is a real sense in saying that gravity caused them to go randomly to their resting place. But we are not asking this question. Rather, we are asking how it is that the universe, being dumb and with no properties before it came into existence, suddenly produced not just the physical universe, but one that has certain properties that make things act the way they do, and especially when that then enables yet further grand possibilities like life to exist. Answer for the materialist? Just lucky. This will be Miracle Number 2.

Further, keeping with the uncaused universe idea, how about what I like to call reciprocal chance occurrences? If this universe is comprised of unguided chance physical particles randomly bumping into each other which cause a domino-effect of further unguided causes and effects, how is it that some --- actually very, very many --- of those chance occurrences happen in concert with one another, and that they not only happen together at the same time, but make sense together, and would make no sense if they hadn't happened together? This is a very strange miracle indeed.

For instance, when I speak to my friend and our conversation includes questions such that his answers only make sense when they follow the question, that, in the God denied universe, must be only two chance occurrences; my question followed by his answer. But how do two randomly happening occurrences, together, form a coherent unity? In the materialistic explanation of the universe, the explosion into existence, uncaused, from nothing, has now produced particles of matter, several billion years later, that randomly bump into each other meaningfully. That is a strange miracle too, Miracle Number 3.

The rain that causes the grass to grow, Miracle Number 4. The grass that feeds the cows that feed us, Miracle Number 5. The egg that turns into a chicken, Miracle Number 6. Name a phenomenon, and I'll name you another miracle. A strange miracle.

When you deny God, the particle itself is a miracle, no different than if God had made it. But when you allow God to be the source of the miracle, it is much more natural, for God could have made it to act in precisely the way it does, rather than needed further ad hoc explanations for the amazing feats it achieves. In this way, the universe is full of many more, and many more strange miracles, when we deny the miraculous God.