Can the Universe Exist Without God?

Discussion between a Finish cosmologist Kari Enqvist and Christian theologian and philosopher William Lane Craig on the 16th of April 2012 at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

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18 thoughts on “Can the Universe Exist Without God?

  1. Abandon TV,

    Where to start?!

    Before I get to the points we’ve been discussing, let me tell you about an experience I had the other day. During the winter we often have field mice seek shelter in our house. I’ve found that by sitting still, they won’t notice you. So, I was able to overhear a conversation between two of them.

    One said, “Wow! This is the neatest burrow I’ve ever seen. In fact it looks as if Someone actually designed it. Yes! That must be the case. I think I’ll call the designer Architect.”

    The other looked at him with scorn and asked, “If Architect designed this burrow, then who designed Architect? After all, you can’t deduce the existence of Architect without also being able to say who designed Him. That’s just logic.”

    The first mouse replied, sadly, “I guess you’re right. We should accept the fact that this burrow, even though it looks so complex and intricate, just happened. But I was so excited about Architect. It’s too bad you proved He can’t exist.”
    A couple of very wise mice, huh?

    (1) The 3-letter sequence G-o-d either has some agreed upon significance or it is as meaningless as X-q-j. You can’t claim that Xqj requires a designer without imputing some specific meaning to Xqj. If you insist that you will treat Xqj as signifying one thing, while the rest of the world, including those who don’t believe in the existence of Xqj, agree that it signifies something else … Well, you can do that, but it makes meaningful discussion about Xqj impossible.

    (2) Perhaps I wasn’t clear about the point I’m trying to make concerning time: In talking about what the generality of people throughout the world, except yourself, mean by the letter sequence G-o-d, to speak of His beginning is not meaningful since doing so assumes an attribute (time-boundness) that is not part of what G-o-d means. For a timeless being, terms like beginning and end are meaningless. In other words, when people deduce the existence of God from the design of the universe, the God they deduce is someone who is outside of time and for whom, therefore, the question of His own designer does not arise. You can tell them that they have no right to deduce that particular God, but I’m afraid they’ve already done it.

    (3) You say, “I am testing YOUR logic rather than bringing my own to the table.” Oh, the irony! Isn’t it clear that you can test my logic only be accepting my frame of reference (God exists)? If you logically deduce that my frame of reference is invalid, then you must accept (as I showed in my previous post), that no such thing as “logic” exists. But if no such thing as logic exists, then you cannot have logically disproved what I assert. But if you accept what I assert in order to disprove it … Makes you dizzy, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, you can’t take hacks at my reasoning without putting yours on the table as well. Long ago, when I was first considering the issues we are discussing, I reached the conclusion that the existence of God was highly improbable. But then, after examining the case for the other side, I had to admit that the only thing less probable was that He did not exist. So you can’t stop with just saying there are holes in my case – of course there are. I think very few people would make the claim that the case for theism has no holes. It’s just that compared to the alternative, the case for theism is the Rock of Gibraltar.

    • Your field mouse analogy does not work because both field mice and humans occupy the same ‘universe’, the only difference being that the human scale is too big for the mice to properly comprehend.

      A better analogy would be to imagine two field mice arguing about the fact that if God exists but does not require a ‘third party’ creator to bring him into existence, why the hell does the mice’s universe require a third party creator in order to bring it into existence…

      (1 & 2) OK so you’re saying that God is universally defined as being a timeless being. Therefore the possibility (in fact the *actuality*) of ‘timeless existence’ is therefore implied in that universally accepted definition of God. IOW people who believe in God believe in timeless existence.

      Yet these same people apparently reject any possibility that the universe may also exist in a timeless way and that as such it may be subject (as all timeless things are) to all possibility. In fact by rejecting this concept of a timeless universe and the embracing the idea that the universe is finite in both time and space (and thus possibility) the concept of ‘timeless existence’ is left with nowhere to go. The ONLY place for this concept to go is outside of the universe in an invisible realm represented by an invisible man with a beard (why not!) called ‘God’.

      IOW imagining a finite, limited universe is precisely what requires you to invent a God to house the concept of ‘timeless eternal existence and ‘all possibility’.

      God is in this way like the moving of a decimal point.

      (3) The ‘logic’ you claim to be using is reliant on certain premises. Those premises are mere assumptions which lack proof or any logical basis. As such your logic is really ‘belief’ (faith), which I have absolutely no problem with. I just don’t think it’s right to misname it ‘logical’ or ‘rational’, that’s all.

      For example you assert that the universe is not (or cannot be) timeless and eternal, but this concept called God can be and is timeless and eternal. If this assertion is the result of a logical framework then please show me your logical framework. Show me your evidence or rational process used to deduce this.

      You also assert that the universe cannot contain (what we would generally recognise to be) ‘design elements’ without a higher creator to design them. Or to put it another way, that such ‘design elements’ cannot come into existence on their own, thus requiring an intelligent, purposeful, sentient creator who exists outside of the universe to bring them into existence.

      Again, if this assertion is the result of a logical framework then please show me your logical framework. Show me your evidence or rational process used to deduce this.

      One aspect of this particular ‘logic’ seems to hinge on the idea that we humans ‘invented’ mathematics and geometry and so on and then we found evidence of it in nature, leading us to conclude that ‘someone else’ must have also had a hand in ‘designing’ nature. In reality we merely *discovered* mathematics and geometry, which are, in truth, a part of nature – which ARE nature. Golden ratios and such are just as much a part of the building blocks of the universe as carbon atoms are.

      The whole concept of ‘intelligent design’ is in fact a human construct born out of our ignorance and arrogance. We claim our own intelligence as ‘ours’ (a purely human achievement) and then are shocked and bemused to find equal (or superior) intelligence existing ‘out there’ in nature. Previously we assumed nature to be dumb! (to lack what we call ‘intelligence’). How arrogant and narrow minded that is! The truth is that (what we call) intelligence (or the product of intelligence) is just part of nature, part of the universe. In fact the universe is far more intelligent than we are!

      One of the consequences of transferring intelligence, timelessness, creativity, design and even consciousness from being intrinsic aspects of the universe itself to being aspects of an invisible ‘God’ who exists outside of the universe is that it leaves the universe essentially dead, dumb and finite and it automatically disconnects people from all of these things. It is rather like sucking all the life and currents out of the oceans leaving us swimming is a ‘giant uninspiring puddle’.

      Doing this also allows for hierarchies of power to develop based on people’s claims that they are able to contact and channel that which is no longer considered a part of the universe, but which is now considered part of this ‘God’. These hierarchies develop into religions which inevitably invite conflict, persecution, wars, genocide, child rape, kidnapping, imprisonment, torture, theft, invasions, fear, guilt, shame, retribution, confusion and so on…

      Understanding that intelligence, timelessness, creativity, design and even consciousness are actually aspects of the universe itself allow ALL of us to ‘swim in god’ directly. No one can claim to channel God any more than anyone else can and thus hierarchical religions become untenable and ridiculous. A priest swimming in the ocean cannot claim to be wetter than the other swimmers, or to ‘know’ the ocean more than they do!

      The price humanity pays for inventing invisible gods and imbuing them with all the wondrous aspects of our universe is to live in a cold, heartless, material world. To define oceans as existing in the sky is to give up swimming here on earth. To define god in existing in heaven is to give up experiencing god here on earth.

      • Abandon TV,

        (1) Let’s start with my beloved mice. Remember that your original challenge was about what humans can deduce from observation of the universe around them. In my little story, the mice are entirely analogous to human beings. They find themselves living in a well-constructed, orderly “burrow” – their universe – and they are trying, by observation, to understand the order they see. One mouse, as millions of humans have done, sees in the observed order of the burrow evidence of a burrow builder who may be called Architect. The other, arguing precisely as I understand you to be arguing, attempts to debunk Architect. For you, when faced with the challenge of defending the debunker’s reasoning (which, as I have said, is your own), to suddenly jump outside that “universe” and attempt to invalidate the analogy with knowledge no mouse could possibly have (a universe beyond the burrow shared by mice and humans) is to seriously beg the question. Since the point of my illustration was to demonstrate that the debunker’s line of argument is in fact indefensible, I perfectly understand why you wish to avoid the challenge of defending it.

        (2) You think it odd, or incomprehensible, that believers in God should attribute timelessness to Him, but are unwilling to attribute it to the universe itself. Remember this is all about what people can deduce from observation. We KNOW from observation that the universe is not timeless, that it in fact had a beginning at a specific point in the past, about 15 billion years ago. We also KNOW that the expansion of the universe is such that it will never contract, so oscillation is not an issue. It will expand forever. So, what’s the problem?

        Perhaps you would say that because people believed in a timeless God and a time-bound universe before we had developed the math and physics to prove these things, their reasoning was invalid. Remember that even prehistoric men conceived of the sun as a burning fire. Fires eventually consume their fuel and burn out. So, even without knowing that the universe is expanding, it would be a reasonable deduction from observation that there would come a time when the universe had burned all its fuel, and come to a cold state in which it would thereafter exist forever. That inevitably implies a beginning, otherwise the burnout would have already occurred in the infinitely remote past.

        (3) The fact that the universe is known to have a beginning is, in my view, conclusive. Let’s use t0 to represent the moment in which the Big Bang occurred, t+ the split second after the bang, and t- the moment “before” the bang. Let s0, s+ and s- be the states (mathematically, the state vectors) of the infinitely small bundle of matter and energy that became the universe at the corresponding times. Obviously, a massive change in state occurred between t- and t+. What caused it? I spent years of my life as an engineer designing state machines, and I can assure you that changes of state occur ONLY with the introduction of outside inputs of some kind. If the universe had existed from infinity in state s-, what caused it to transition to state s0?

        You may argue that the universe by nature cycled through many states until it finally hit s0, which caused the bang. But, remember, the universe is finite (we know by observation), and therefore can assume only a finite number of states. If it had existed from infinity, all possible states must have been assumed an infinitely long time before t0. Remember that the Bang did happen, and can happen (according to observation) only once. So, there had to be something utterly unique at t0 to cause the transition from s- (any prior state) to s0. Therefore, there must have been something outside the universe to provide the required inputs to trigger the state transition that became the Big Bang.

        And, of course, in terms of what humans can deduce, once you have something existing outside the physical universe, and able to act upon it, you have God.

        (4) You make the assertion, unproved and unexamined in any detail, that my logic is really faith. I nowhere said anything about faith, and if you believe that my reasoning is such that “faith” is the proper label for it, I say, BRING IT ON! Demonstrate the leaps of faith you say I am taking. The bald statement that I am using faith rather than logic is itself an exercise of faith, since it is entirely unsupported. Your whole statement concerning intelligent design, for example, is in that category – you don’t back any of it up with facts or reasonable deductions.

        (5) That brings me to the challenge I issued in my last post, to which you have yet to respond. Getting to the truth is not saying that one side of the argument is not 100% conclusive, and therefore the other side must be true. That’s like saying a football team loses the game because they didn’t score a TD every time they had the ball. What about the other team? How many points did they score? How many points can you score for your side of the argument? Where is some coherent presentation of the atheist case that I can take my shots at just as you have taken shots at the case for theism? So far, though defenders of theism may not get a TD every time, the score is still lopsidedly in God’s favor.

  2. AbandonTV,
    I’d say the main problem with your argument is that it has no bearing on whether Christianity is true or not. Belief that George Washington was the first U.S. President would also be lost in such a global cataclysm, but that doesn’t mean that Washington being the first President is a purely social construct – it’s a historical fact. In a cataclysm like you describe, we’d lose everything known about mankind’s earlier history, but that doesn’t make mankind’s history a purely social construct.

    • “…I’d say the main problem with your argument is that it has no bearing on whether Christianity is true or not. ..”

      Sure, I agree that my argument does not, strictly speaking, disprove the truth of Christianity. I wasn’t really arguing that.

      I was only demonstrating that it is entirely a social construct. The belief system known as Christianity incorporates ideas about ‘God’ and the universe in much the same way as any other organised religion. After all, most organised religions are based on a collection of historical anecdotes, usually compiled in some kind of a official text together with some theories about the nature of the universe, theories which are not verifiable (they are based on faith).

      Christianity might be true indeed. Or (let’s be fair) one of the other religions might be true instead. Or some other possibility might be true which no one has imagined yet. There is (at least in terms of evidence and reason) an equal chance for each possibility to be correct. As the various possibilities are infinite this means the chances for any to be true are each infinitely small. The lack of verifiable evidence for any particular religion’s ideas about the nature of the universe is the reason why religions have always been such a culturally specific phenomenon (less so with the advent of modern transport and multiculturalism).

      And I make the distinction here between historical evidence (which is basically hearsay) and verifiable evidence which (as the term implies) can be verified.

      The spatial relationship of the earth and sun can be verified at any time by anyone. Civilisations can rise and fall and all knowledge be lost and STILL the surviving population can eventually develop the skills needed to once again correctly verify the sun-moon relationship. The existence of a Christian God (or any other religion’s gods or goddess), or the possibility of a virgin birth or the ability to be resurrected from the dead etc .. these are all phenomena which can’t be verified – or at least they have not yet been verified over the last two thousand years. They might be true of course, I’m not denying that. I’m just saying there is currently no verifiable evidence for any of it. The fact that story of Jesus’ birth and life is mirrored in many other much *earlier* religious myths also does not prove it didn’t also happen 2000 years ago for real.

      The story of the birth of Jesus also perfectly symbolises the astronomical alignment, still visible every Christmas today, whereby the three stars of Orion’s belt (known as the ‘three kings’) follow the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, in the East in order to make an alignment which, on 25th December points directly to the ‘birth place’ of the sun as it rises on the eastern horizon. See picture below.

      The sun reaches its lowest point on horizon the 21st December (winter solstice) where it remains motionless for three days (or ‘dead for three days’) before it begins to visibly move higher again. Therefore the 25th December (three days later) symbolically marks the rebirth of the sun. A n especially important and joyous occasion for our ancestors who lived without electric lighting and central heating!

      Over the course of a year the sun passes through 360 degrees of the sky divided into the 12 signs of the zodiac. This is represented by a circle divided into 12. The two equinoxes and two solstices form a cross in this circle with each quarter representing one of the four seasons (with three signs of the zodiac in each). The sun is symbolically placed at the centre of this circle (ie ‘sun is placed onto the cross’).

      But strictly speaking, none of this can be said to categorically disprove the story of Jesus’ life, surrounded by his 12 disciples, and placed on a cross. It can always be argued that the numerous astronomical connections are just be an unfathomably improbable coincidence. Maybe that’s why belief in organised religion has lasted for so long.

      • And, again, it’s not “entirely a social construct” any more than George Washington being the first President of the U.S. is “entirely a social construct”.

        “There is (at least in terms of evidence and reason) an equal chance for each possibility to be correct.”

        I’m not quite sure how you arrive at that, since whether Jesus was resurrected (the central point of Christianity) is, as with George Washington being the first President, either true or not true. It is not really in competition with other claims. If Mohamud really had an encounter with God, that doesn’t disprove Jesus’ resurrection.

        “The story of the birth of Jesus also perfectly symbolises the astronomical alignment, still visible every Christmas today, whereby the three stars of Orion’s belt (known as the ‘three kings’) follow the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, in the East in order to make an alignment which, on 25th December points directly to the ‘birth place’ of the sun as it rises on the eastern horizon. ”

        In the same sense that a broken clock is correct twice a day, perhaps. The stars in Orion’s belt align with Sirius EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR, and they not only point to the “birth place” of the sun on 12/25, but to practically every point of the eastern and southern horizons, due to the rotation of the Earth, just as they do on many, many days each year. There’s nothing unique about them in regards to 12/25. You couldn’t use them to locate where the sun will rise unless you happen to know exactly which minute to be looking at them. Just like you can’t use a broken clock to tell time unless you know exactly which minute to be looking at it.

        “The sun reaches its lowest point on horizon the 21st December (winter solstice) where it remains motionless for three days (or ‘dead for three days’) before it begins to visibly move higher again. Therefore the 25th December (three days later) symbolically marks the rebirth of the sun.”

        No, the sun starts moving north (in relation to those of us on Earth) on the solstice itself. But if you’re saying that the sun’s movement is so slight as to be unnoticeable between 12/21 and 12/25, then the movement is equally unnoticeable between 12/17 and 12/21, since the sun moves just as slowly APPROACHING the solstice as it does moving away from it. So the sun wouldn’t be “dead” for three days, but for about eight in all, from 12/17 through 12/25.

        “Over the course of a year the sun passes through 360 degrees of the sky divided into the 12 signs of the zodiac. This is represented by a circle divided into 12. The two equinoxes and two solstices form a cross in this circle with each quarter representing one of the four seasons (with three signs of the zodiac in each). The sun is symbolically placed at the centre of this circle (ie ‘sun is placed onto the cross’).”

        I’m guessing you’re looking at MODERN zodiac charts, because I’ve never seen a pre-Christian one in which there is a cross in the center with the sun inside. Besides, “sun” and “son” are only homonyms in the English language, which obviously wasn’t around in Jesus’ day. You’re playing the kinds of word-games that anyone can play.

      • Hello David and Abandon TV,

        Thanks both of you for wonderful dialogue that is full of respect and kindness to each others position.

        Just to add, the copy-cat theory Abandon TV presented is sadly abandon and rejected both by atheists and Christian scholars because its historially and logically false. I have written a dozen of articles going through each claims, and gods common used by uninformed copy-cat apologists. But I often point atheists to other atheist and skeptics refuting copy-cat theory: http://conspiracies.skepticproject.com/articles/zeitgeist/part-one/

        Thanks both of you.

        Prayson

  3. I wonder if anyone can argue against the logic of the following.

    If you or I had been born without a Christian upbringing we are rather unlikely to end up becoming Christians (although it is certainly possible).

    If you or I had been born in some culture where Christianity was not the dominant religion there is a high probability we’d end up not a Christian – especially if being a Christian went against the dominant religion of our family, peers and local community and therefore made us somewhat isolated, or even ostracised, from local community life (worship, marriage, festivals etc).

    If we’d been born in an area were there is no practice and no *knowledge* whatsoever of Christianity (such as some remote rural community in a distant land which had never been invaded by Europeans) then we *definitely* would not end up a Christian. We would have no knowledge of God, Jesus, the Bible etc as defined by Christianity. We might worship (or simply be in awe of) the sun, moon, stars, wind, nature, trees, seasons, life cycles and the glory of creation in our own way. But we would be literally unable to become Christians. And if in later life we were ever exposed to this religion we would be highly unlikely to take it seriously (as being the truth), and even less likely to adopt it. That is unless we were influenced or coerced into adopting the religion by factors such as force, indoctrination, monetary and material incentives (infrastructure etc) and peer pressure.

    In other words, belief in (and adoption of) the Christian religion (or any other organised religion for that matter) can ONLY be transmitted from other human being to another. It is has always, and only ever been, transmitted from one generation of humans to the next.

    Unlike laughter, sex, hunger, dancing, cooking, hunting, hugging, crying, building shelters, being affected by beauty, fearing heights, enjoying sunshine etc etc Christianity is NOT something which comes to us from within, or without. We can ONLY become Christian if we are exposed to other human beings who are already Christians and who must then teach us what Christianity is (just as someone taught them). And even then we are still just as likely to reject it as we are to adopt it as a religion.

    Humans all over the world may indeed be spontaneously develop organised religions (and they have!) but no two religions are ever the same (except where humans have travelled between cultures and mixed up their different religious ideas by themselves).

    This is in stark contrast to the universe itself which exists and is consistent wherever you are. Its existence is NOT dependent on instruction from other humans.

    Therefore, using standard logical criteria, we can say that the universe exists, but that ‘God’ (Christian or any belonging to any other religion) is, by definition, a social construct. God is *entirely* dependent on social interaction (instruction from fellow human beings) to be defined and adopted as an entity. Without this social instruction God will (as all the evidence shows) simply not exist.

    • Hello Abandon TV,

      Thank you for your comment. The logic you presented, namely x is a Christian because x is brought up in a Christian culture/society, thus Christianity is a social contruction is, sadly, logically false because it commits a popular and common informal fallacy know as Genetic Fallacy.

      E.g. If I say, you believe that the earth goes round the sun because you are brought up in a period were the society believe it to be so, thus beliving that the earth goes round the sun is a social construction. Or you believe democracy is better than dictatorship government because you are born in democratic nation, thus your belief is a social contruction. All these examples commits genetic fallacy because it demerits an idea base on its origin or history.

      The origin or history of how we came to hold a give position is irrevant to do with the truthfulness of that position.

      Bruce N. Waller correctly advise “Difficult as it may be, it is vitally important to separate argument sources and styles from argument content”.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Prayson

      • “…The logic you presented, namely x is a Christian because x is brought up in a Christian culture/society, thus Christianity is a social contruction is, sadly, logically false because it commits a popular and common informal fallacy know as Genetic Fallacy….”

        That was not quite the logic I was presenting. Cultural upbringing influencing our beliefs was not my main point (although that is part of it). My point was there is no evidence or reason to indicate it is possible for a human being to encounter Christianity (or any other organised religion) in any way EXCEPT through culture ie from one person to another. This makes it very different to the examples you gave.

        Beliefs about the spacial relationship between the sun and the moon can certainly be influenced by cultural upbringing. However, anyone in the world can (in cultural isolation) develop the tools and mathematics necessary to understand the solar system. In fact this is exactly how we did gain knowledge of the solar system. We studied the sun and moon ‘out there’ in the universe. This study initially gave us some long lasting cultural beliefs about the sun and the moon, but as our study of the solar system improved our cultural beliefs also were forced to change accordingly (ie from the Ptolemaic system to the current system).

        If all knowledge of the solar system was lost in some global cataclysm, the surviving humans rebuilding their civilisation from scratch would eventually regain the exact same knowledge of the solar system as we have now, once they had (re)invented telescopes, astronomy and mathematics.

        The preference for democracy over fascism can also be influenced by cultural upbringing. However this preference is usually based on a reasoned argument (such as: “democracy allows for more social freedom than fascism”). This argument is based, once again, on phenomena which exist in the real world and can be observed by anyone in any age. As such systems of organisation such as democracy and fascism (and our preferences for either) can also be invented from scratch by any population without needing to inherit the idea culturally.

        In fact, it would appear our civilisation has already gained, lost and then regained sophisticated scientific knowledge of the solar system. Although it is just as possible that certain groups have always held onto this knowledge in secret. But I digress….

        By contrast, and according to all reason and evidence, Christianity (and all other organised religions) can ONLY by inherited culturally. This makes it completely different to the examples you gave. If all cultural records of Christianity were lost in some global cataclysm (including memory of course), there is absolutely no evidence or reason to suggest that the humans who survived could ever re-invent/ re-discover Christianity again. The only known mechanism for its continued survival (cultural inheritance from previous generations) would no longer be operating.

        Do you know of any mechanism which would allow them to re-dicover/ re-invent Christianity? (a mechanism comparable to re-inventing tools, glass wear, telescopes, astronomy, mathematics and eventually comprehending the true spacial relationship of the sun and the moon, just as we comprehend it today)

        If no such mechanism exists then we must logically conclude that Christianity is a purely social construct which can therefore only last as long as it is past on culturally from one generation of humans to another.

        • Hello again Abandon TV,

          Well, I believe, it sadly still commits genetic fallacy. The source of an idea does not endorse or condemn the truthfulness of that particular idea.

          The source of a certain concept could be unreliable but that does not mean that the concert itself is false.

          Example, you could ask me what time is it, and I look at the gas station price of oil that say 1 dollar and 15 cents, and say its is 1:15 p.m. Whether that is correct or wrong time, does not depend on the source but the truthfulness of the concept given.

          Sadly, your reasoning commit this false reasoning. It does not matter what the source of Christianity is, whether reliable or unreliable is irrelevant to the trufulness of Christianity.

          Thank you once again for your comments.

          Prayson

    • Abandon TV,

      You say, “My point was there is no evidence or reason to indicate it is possible for a human being to encounter Christianity (or any other organised religion) in any way EXCEPT through culture ie from one person to another.”

      Actually, as a Christian I agree with this point. So, I believe, does God. That’s why He went to the trouble of instituting a whole nation (Israel) for the purpose of ensuring a human mechanism through which specific truth about Him could be transmitted through the generations. He took the further step of having much of that knowledge recorded in a form not subject to transmission error (the Bible). However, when you extend your argument to the existence of God, I believe it fails on grounds pointed out by the Bible itself:

      Psa 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

      Rom 1:19-20 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

      The claim here is that knowledge of God’s existence is independent of culture and requires no human mechanism for its transmission because it is self-evident from the design of the universe. That is to say, the existence of clock-makers is implicit in the existence of clocks. The idea that the existence of an intricate mechanism necessarily implies a designer is one that occurs independently to many individuals without the necessity of it being transmitted from person to person. Whether you agree with that idea is immaterial to your claim. The fact that the observation of design in the universe brings many human beings to a belief in God independent of any social transmission answers your argument.

      • “…The claim here is that knowledge of God’s existence is independent of culture and requires no human mechanism for its transmission because it is self-evident from the design of the universe. That is to say, the existence of clock-makers is implicit in the existence of clocks. …The fact that the observation of design in the universe brings many human beings to a belief in God independent of any social transmission answers your argument….”

        OK, I would agree with you that the universe is unfathomably exquisite in its construction 🙂 One may indeed call it ‘design’ but to then use mundane logic to deduce a hidden ‘designer’ (ie God) immediately creates another logical problem as great (if not greater) than the first. Here is the logic:

        The universe is complex and exhibits (what we think of as) design (sea shells, DNA etc)…. therefore a designer is required … therefore we shall deduce a designer and call him God.

        The problem is that the same logic we use to deduce the existence of God must also be abandoned as soon as we have deduced the existence of God, otherwise this logic will force us to ask the same question again: “Who designed God?” By your own logic the ‘existence of an entity as complex as God proves the existence of another God who must have designed God ……and so on forever. One could use the argument that God is extra special and as such requires no designer, but why not then apply this same logic to the universe and say that all creation is so extra special (and we know it is!) that it requires no designer?

        Therefore, God represents not so much an explanation of the wonder and mystery of the universe, but rather an agreement to encapsulate all of that wonder, put it in a folder (named ‘God’) and never think any further on the subject. God is, in effect, a full stop to mark the end of a sentence. A sentence which would otherwise carry on forever because it is pondering the nature of the universe. God represents the end of our thinking and questioning.

        Science goes the other way and dismisses all the apparent ‘design’ in the universe to pure mathematics, randomness, chance. This is also a kind of full stop to prevent eternal pondering.

        What both approaches do is focus our attention outside of ourselves to a third party (either God or science). But all we can really say is that the universe ‘is’. And all we can really do is take our rightful place in that universe, as part of it. There is nothing about us which is not just as awesome and mysterious as anything else in the universe. We ARE the universe and our consciousness can (if we allow it) expand to become aware of the entire universe – giving us the answers we seek, in ‘knowing’ rather than words.

        But both science and organised religions steer us away from knowing the universe directly in this way. Instead they encourage us to refer to a third party instead, whether this be a computer, a text, an equation or a priest. And this limits the scope of what we can know and achieve as humans – which is probably why the ruling classes have always encouraged us to see the world through religion and/ or science. But that’s another subject….

        My point is that logic must be applied consistently. If you are going to use logic to determine the existence of God you must be consistent and apply that same logic to the existence of God as well. The existence of God also implies a(nother) creator – even more so than the the existence of the universe does. You can’t insist the existence of a watch points to a watchmaker and then refuse to ponder how that watchmaker came into being. That is not applying logic, it is just reciting a myth.

        To me the logical (and magical) stance would be to simply proclaim the universe itself to be ‘God’. In this case God and the universe are interchangeable terms, one did not create the other, the universe/God simply IS. Suddenly the universe is no longer divided into the mundane watch (everything) and the magical watchmaker (God). Everything becomes magical, including us. We become God. Without this God/ universe division human consciousness itself blossoms. And perhaps most telling of all, when we realise God and the universe are the same thing all systems of hierarchy become ridiculous, including all organised religions. Organised religions are supposed to be bridges between the mundane world and God. When everything is properly identified as God, religion becomes something resembling a bridge in the middle of a meadow! (the bridge does not connect us to anywhere new). Without this function of connecting us to God, religion can be revealed for what it’s really all about: aggregated wealth, a hierarchy of authority, religious dogma, child abuse and a history of genocide and persecution. The control of the many by a few through the manipulation of ideas and emotions, and through brute force (violence).

        To speak the truth about organised religion – and to reject it – is not to reject God…… it is to reject evil and to seek God. God is not ‘up there’ and religion is not the bridge allowing us to connect with another realm where God the watchmaker resides looking down on us. God is right here – we are God, as is everything else. To wipe away organised religion is to enjoy a direct connection with God, perhaps for the first time ever. It is to swim in the glorious ocean, rather than read about the glory of the ocean in a book or have someone preach to you about it, before then taking your money and telling you how to live your life.

    • Abandon TV,

      I think that in your analysis you have fallen into several subtle linguistic and logical traps.

      (1) You have slipped in a redefinition of the word “God.” Thomas Aquinas saw God as the “uncaused cause” and “first mover” of the existence of the physical universe. I think his formulation has specific bearing on your argument:

      “But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”

      The point I am making is not about the validity of Aquinas’ argument (although it directly refutes your claim and has withstood centuries of the most critical examination), but about the last sentence in the quoted statement: “and this everyone understands to be God.” When you assume that God must have had a designer, you are no longer working within the accepted meaning of the word “God.” You are talking about something else that no one claims to know anything about. When people deduce “God” from the design of the universe, what they have in mind is exactly Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause, and not this other thing that was itself designed.

      (2) Another attribute that is embodied in the accepted definition of “God” is that He is not entrapped within Time as we are. Time is a construct that has meaning only from the moment the universe began, which we now know that it did – it literally started with a bang! When you posit that God must have had a designer, you slip in the implicit assumption that God had a beginning. But what does “beginning” mean from a non-Time frame of reference? Once again, you have implicitly redefined God as something within time rather than, as the accepted concept of God requires, being outside and in fact the inventor of Time. Any attempt at logical deduction about the non-Time in which God exists, and which human beings are not equipped to even imagine, is ludicrous.

      (3) Speaking of logic, upon which you so heavily rely, what exactly is it? In a universe that “just happened,” human beings are nothing more than accidents of evolution, bio-chemical machines that have been conditioned though natural selection to react to certain stimuli along predetermined lines. In that scenario what you call “logic” is no different in kind to the conditioning that causes birds to build their nests a specific way. The greater apparent complexity of the conditioned responses of humans is irrelevant. There is no rational process at work – just environmental influences, genetic inheritance, and blind chance. You “think” the way you do for no other reason than the mechanism called “you” has been conditioned to respond in that way. Therefore, once you assume the universe to be Godless and undesigned, to say that “logic” requires a particular conclusion is inherently fallacious.

      • 1. If those who believe in God define him as a ‘first mover’ (ie he came into existence from nothing, to put it simply) then that is fine. They’re free to believe this. But they must accept it is just a belief. What they can’t do is pretend to be using *logic* to deduce God’s existence – specifically the logic which you put forth which is that the universe shows design and therefore it requires a designer.

        What I was saying previously is that you can’t have it both ways. If the universe requires a designer then God requires a designer too. If God (in all his complexity) can come into existence out of nothing and from nowhere then so can the universe (in all its complexity).

        2. “…Another attribute that is embodied in the accepted definition of “God” is that He is not entrapped within Time as we are…”

        My same argument applies here to. (Linear) time is a human invention (and a relatively new one too). Linear time is simply a way of handling the universe. One way out of many ways. The idea of the universe being eternal has been considered by humans much longer than the idea of the universe being finite and starting with a big bang. What came before the big bang? Scientists simply don’t know. Only a few decades ago scientists thought atoms were the smallest building blocks in the universe. Science (as we know it today) is a relatively new endeavour barely a few centuries old!

        Once again, we can just as easily propose the theory that the universe is outside time, or that like an iceberg in water there are areas of the universe which lie outside of what we call linear time. There is no need to invent a God, and there is no reason to invent a God to solve any problems with creation.

        3. To clarify: I am merely pointing out logical fallacies and inconsistencies in the logic commonly used to argue for God’s existence and to define what God is. I am testing YOUR logic rather than bringing my own to the table.

        The notion of watch requiring a watchmaker is a *logical* argument which YOU made. I was merely pointing out the inconsistency of applying that logic to argue for God’s existence but refusing to apply that same logic to God himself when you refuse to ask who designed God. You attempt to get around this logical inconsistency by turning to another argument, namely that not everything is required to be ‘moved’ by another and that as such God can be a ‘first mover’. I then pointed out that the same can be logically be said for the universe itself. You then argued that God was outside of time. There is no logic which suggests that the universe isn’t also outside of time. Linear time may exist only within the universe itself – in fact we already know that the nature of time changes dramatically depending on where you are in the universe and what you are doing (such as travelling a certain speeds). Again, defining God in this way in an attempt to prove his existence is logically inconsistent.

        “… There is no rational process at work…”

        Yes there is. Logic is not the same as ‘truth’ (facts) where the evidence might be interpreted differently, or require first hand experience which is not available to all of us (such as eyewitness accounts presented to a jury).

        Logic is available to all of us. Logic (or rationality) is a way of handling the information which is currently available. Put simply, logic simply requires that the statements and propositions we make are consistent and can be applied universally.

        I am merely pointing out the inconsistencies in your argument which you present as logical but which are not.

        To be clear: I am not arguing against what you believe. I am merely saying your *logical* arguments do not hold. What you argue is therefore exclusively in the realm of belief, faith (ie a myth which you have chosen to believe). That’s fine by me. My only issue is your incorrect presentation of that myth in terms of logic 🙂

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