XFiles Friday: Finding God (right where you planted Him)

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 3)

Last week we saw how Geisler and Turek made a Big Goof when it comes to the Big Bang: they forgot that if time began at the Big Bang, then there was no time before the Big Bang for any “First Cause” to happen. As they themselves argued (in relation to God), the Law of Causality does not apply to things that are eternal, and since the physical universe has existed for all of time (just as God allegedly has), the universe is also uncaused and eternal–there has never been a time when material reality did not exist.

That pretty much disposes of Chapter 3′s main argument, but I wanted to look for a moment at how they apply the “First Cause” argument because it gives us a good example of how Christian apologetics treats “evidence” as something to be used to reach a predetermined goal, rather than as a source of objective information. Here is Geisler and Turek’s summary.

From the evidence alone, we know that the first cause must be:

  • self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, and immaterial (since the First Cause created time, space and matter, the First Cause must be outside of time, space and matter). In other words, he is without limits, or infinite;
  • unimaginably powerful, to create the entire universe out of nothing;
  • supremely intelligent, to design the universe with such incredible precision (we’ll see more of this in the next chapter);
  • personal, in order to choose to convert a state of nothingness into the space-time-material universe (an impersonal force has no ability to make choices).

These characteristics of the First Cause are exactly the characteristics theists ascribe to God.

Yeah, go figure, eh?

Again, these characteristics are not based on someone’s religion or subjective experience. They are drawn from the scientific evidence we have just reviewed, and they help us to see a critically important section of the box top to this puzzle we call life.

Well…

First of all, the “scientific evidence” Geisler and Turek refer to is not evidence about the characteristics of the First Cause, it’s the evidence that there was a Big Bang. The Big Bang is a conclusion that scientists have drawn based on the evidence. Geisler and Turek extract from this conclusion the sole point that the universe had a beginning, and from that they derive the above list of characteristics allegedly possessed by their “First Cause.” So their list is not “drawn from the scientific evidence,” it’s simply their list of what they think would be required to create matter, space, and time.

Secondly, it’s a bit disingenuous (to put it politely) to claim that their list is not a reflection of their own subjective religious beliefs. Notice, for example, their assumption that the First Cause is a “he,” masculine singular. We’ve already seen that there was no time prior to the Big Bang for any Cause to have operated to produce the Big Bang. But assuming something could have caused it, why assume that this cause was singular? Any number of factors could have come into play. Any number of “he,” “she,” “it,” or “they.” But Geisler and Turek want the Creator to be the “Heavenly Father” (even though heaven hadn’t been created yet), so they just automatically assume that the “First Cause” is a “he.”

Geisler and Turek also tell us that the First cause must be “self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, and immaterial… In other words, he is without limits, or infinite.” But that doesn’t follow. There’s nothing about being self-existent, timeless, nonspatial and/or immaterial which equates to being without limits or infinite. What would “infinite” mean in the absence of space, time, and matter anyway? That God is a very large number? It doesn’t mean “omnipresent” because there’s no place for God to be present in yet. It might mean “powerful,” but powerful relative to what? There’s no matter or energy yet to give us a baseline for assessing God’s alleged power (nor is there any time in which God could exercise His power even if He had it).

Geisler and Turek are simply inserting their preconceived notion that their Creator is infinite and unlimited, a notion they derive from their own personal religious dogmas. Even if there were a creator, and even if his power were greater than anything in the material universe, that wouldn’t automatically make him infinite and unlimited. It wouldn’t even make his power unlimited. In fact, many theists, throughout history, have definitely not drawn the conclusion that their god(s) were infinite and of unlimited power. They were just bigger and stronger, and not always smarter.

Geisler and Turek assume (based on their religion) that the First Cause would have to be intelligent, but that also does not follow from the evidence. Once again, there was no time during which a Cause could have operated to produce the Big Bang, but if there were, it wouldn’t necessarily need to be an intelligent cause. In fact, it’s arguable whether intelligence could even exist apart from space, time and matter. Certainly we’ve never seen any verifiable examples of intelligence operating in the absence of such things, especially considering that intelligence requires thinking and thinking takes time. But even apart from these considerations, Geisler and Turek offer no reason for supposing that the Big Bang would require any more initiating intelligence than a supernova or a lightning strike.

Geisler and Turek are simply assuming that the circumstances surrounding the Big Bang were not subject to any natural laws inherent in the context itself. If there were natural laws governing how Big Bangs happen, then no particular intelligence would be needed. But Geisler and Turek simply ignore this possibility. As far as they’re concerned, material space-time had a beginning, and therefore the First Cause must have been an intelligent, masculine, singular deity just like their religion has always claimed. They’re not drawing their conclusion from the evidence, they’re simply slapping their dogma up alongside the evidence and pretending that this constitutes some kind of logical relationship.

The same goes for the First Cause being personal because it had to “choose” to create the universe. I won’t quibble about what a “choice” is and how it is different from impersonal forces following one path out of a variety of possible alternatives. I’ll just point out, once again, that a choice involves wanting things to be different at some future moment than they are at the present moment. In other words, before you can make choices, there must be a difference between “the present moment” and “the future moment,” which means time must exist before choices can exist. So no, the First Cause was not making any choices prior to the Big Bang. And even if choices were possible prior to the Big Bang (assuming “prior to the Big Bang” were not a nonsensical term), there’s no reason, from the evidence, to suppose that any choice was necessarily involved in the process. All we really know is that the Big Bang happened. That, by itself, does not tell us that some person necessarily wanted it to happen.

Geisler and Turek would like us to believe that the evidence is consistent with their theology, but at every point their list of assumed characteristics shows only that they are reading into the evidence the specific things they want to see there. Had they come from a different cultural and religious background, they might very well have given us an entirely different list. The interplay of light and darkness, for example, might suggest the cosmic balance of the forces of yin and yang. The emergence of matter and being might have suggested a feminine creative force. The violence of the Big Bang might have suggested conflict between equal, opposing forces, a fundamental dualism that might (or might not) correspond to Good versus Evil, and so on.

If you give yourself up to fanciful speculations, there’s no end to the religious philosophies you might try to justify by an appeal to the Big Bang’s “First Cause.” But it’s a wasted effort, because the Big Bang did not have a cause. There was just no time in which anything could have happened to cause it. All Geisler and Turek are doing is to present us with their dogmatic assumptions about God, in hopes that the context will make their beliefs sound scientific. But they’re proceeding from a false premise, and their conclusions, even if they were logically valid, are worthless.

 
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One Response to “XFiles Friday: Finding God (right where you planted Him)”

  1. » XFiles Friday: How do you know who to trust? Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] to create doubts about scientific findings, on some very spurious and subjective grounds, as we saw. Though professional scientists have centuries more experience in living up to the standards that [...]