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Where Did God Come From?

Black Hole

The problem of something coming from nothing arises out of three kinds of realities which require a cause for their existence. One, realities that have a beginning; two, realities which are conditioned in their existence (dependent for their existence on something else—the fulfillment of other conditions); and three, realities that are conditioned by time.

I am restricting my comments here to realities which have a beginning. If you are interested in conditioned realities, read chapter three of my book New Proofs for the Existence of God, and if you are interested in realities conditioned by time, read chapter five of the same book.

Returning to realities which have a beginning, if a reality—say, our universe—has a beginning, then that beginning point represents the point at which the universe came into existence (including its physical time). Prior to that point the physical universe did not exist—in other words, it was nothing—absolute nothing. Now here is where the problem of something coming from nothing appears on the scene. If the universe was truly nothing, and if from nothing only nothing can come, then the universe needs something beyond itself to cause it to exist—to bring it from nothing to something. Without this transcendent cause (Creator), the universe could not bring itself from nothing to something, because it was nothing.

If a reality doesn’t have a beginning, if it is not conditioned in its existence, and if it is not conditioned by time, that reality does not have to have a creator—it does not have to have a cause for its existence, because it was never nothing (as our universe was prior to its beginning) and it was not dependent on anything else for its existence. It is its own existence—indeed, it is existence or being itself. Such a reality is not contradictory—it is, in the words of many philosophers, necessary.

There is nothing in the world of logic that requires every being to have a creator or a cause. The only beings that require a creator or a cause, as I said above, are those which have a beginning, those which are dependent on something else for their existence, and those which are conditioned by time.

Now let’s return to the question. God is defined as a being that does not have a beginning, that is not dependent on anything for its existence, and that is not conditioned by time, and so God does not need a cause. Indeed, if you read chapters three and five of New Proofs, you will see that God must exist, because there must exist at least one reality which has no beginning, is not dependent on anything else for its existence, and is not conditioned by time.

The short reason for this, which is explained fully in the book, is as follows: if all beings have a beginning, then all beings will have been nothing prior to their beginning, but this means that nothing will ever come into existence. Why? Let’s say our universe is nothing without the existence of a prior reality, but that prior reality is nothing without the existence of another prior reality, and so forth ad infinitum. Then the whole of reality is nothing without prior realities, but we have no end to the prior realities (which are nothing).

In short, the sum total of all the realities which are nothing without other realities, which are nothing without other realities, which are nothing...is nothing. Zero added to itself an infinite number of times is zero.

You can read the full explanation in chapters three through five of the book. If you do not have at least one "reality which is NOT nothing prior to a beginning" (like God), then you have no reality at all.

Now it just so happens that there can be only one reality that does not have a beginning, is not dependent on anything else for its existence, and is not conditioned by time. The proofs for this are in the book, and it will take too long to explain them here. The ultimate conclusion is there has to be at least one "beginningless being"—and there can be only one "beginningless being"—and this is what we mean by "God."

Now let’s return to the question—the reason we ask the question "why does the universe have a cause?" or "why do we have to explain how the universe came from nothing to something?" is because there is an increasing amount of evidence from physics, the philosophy of mathematics, and metaphysics that imply and even require that the universe has a beginning. This evidence can be found in chapters one through five of New Proofs) and includes the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth 2003 theorem, entropy, the Borde-Vilenkin 1993 theorem, etc. These questions don’t come up with respect to God because there is not only no evidence that God had a beginning, or is dependent on something for its existence, or is conditioned by time. Indeed, as noted above, there must be at least one being—and only one being (i.e. God)—that does not have a beginning, is not dependent on anything for its existence, and is not conditioned by time.
 
 
This article originally appeared at MagisReasonFaith.org. Used with author's permission.
(Image Credit: NASA)

Fr. Robert Spitzer

Written by

Fr. Robert Spitzer, PhD is a Catholic priest in the Jesuit order, and is currently the President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and from 1998 to 2009 was President of Gonzaga University. Fr. Spitzer has made multiple media appearances including: Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, and Deepak Chopra on God and modern physics), the Today Show (debating on the topic of active euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” and a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth." Fr. Spitzer is the author of five books including New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Eerdmans, 2010); Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011); and Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom and the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011). Follow Fr. Spitzer's work at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

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  • "God is defined as a being that does not have a beginning, that is not
    dependent on anything for its existence, and that is not conditioned by
    time, and so God does not need a cause."

    To all appearances, that's a *terrible* definition. Its first major flaw is that it doesn't pick out a unique possibility: it matches every mathematical object, every physical universe described by models such as Hawkings' (if there are any such), every qualitative abstraction, and everything in what Tolkien called "subcreation" (such as the characters, objects, and events in fiction). Its second major flaw is that only the first two of the three properties are necessarily properties of the God of orthodox Christianity (regarding the third, it is a minority opinion but an acceptable orthodox opinion that God is within a special sort of time) and it omits virtually every important property traditionally attributed to God, so it is dishonest argumentation to even call it "God" until argument has established that its properties are those of a classical theistic God.

    • QuanKong

      That is the problem with definition. You set the parameters: "being that does not have a beginning, that is not dependent on anything for its existence, and that is not conditioned by time, and so God does not need a cause".
      Where did you get this definition? If it is yours, how do you arrive at it?

      • I quoted it directly from the article. Were you replying to Fr. Spitzer or to me?

    • Josh

      I'm not too sure about your comprehension of what you've critiqued there. Are you saying that abstractions (dependent on minds for existence), mathematical objects (dependent on extended quantities for their existence in one sense, minds as abstracted in another), and fictional characters (obviously dependent on the mind of the author for their initial actualizations) are necessary beings? Gandalf must necessarily exist?

      As to Hawking's model, one can simply assert that the universe is a necessary being in a model, and (as you qualify) never find it, either logically or empirically. That's the whole point.

      • That's a remarkably uncharitable opening, Josh. I'd be happy to respond if you recast it as an argument or genuine questions, rather than rhetorical questions implying I hold positions which I obviously do not.

        • Josh

          Those weren't rhetorical questions? You very clearly say that Spitzer's definition is no good because there are other things that fit without being God, but all the things you state don't fit the definition because they are contingent...not sure what there is to object to there. Apologies, but I was asking real questions, and I think your offense slightly unwarranted. I'll gladly withdraw my first sentence since it upsets you.

          • Very well. You asked if I was saying that various things are necessary beings. No, as can be easily seen in the comment above, I did not say that. I said that they match the criteria that I quoted from Fr. Spitzer. To reiterate in detail: (1) they are classes of specific, identifiable things that do not have beginnings, (2) there is no identifiable thing that they require for the sort of existence that they have, and (3) they are nontemporal.

          • Josh

            Ok, then I'll just take one of your examples and show why I'm confused. The character of Gandalf (as created by Tolkien) (1) has a beginning, and (2) owes its initial act of existence to Tolkien (an identifiable being). Which means that it doesn't qualify as a necessary being, which is what Spitzer was defining.

            To sum:
            You say Spitzer's definition is non-exclusive, yet the things you say meet the conditions of the definition actually don't meet the conditions of the definition, unless you want to argue, for example, that the fictional character Gandalf never began, etc. Which is quite obviously false. And similar things can be said about the other examples you list. Which means either your initial statement begs qualifications, or a statement that Spitzer's definition actually succeeds in being exclusive.

          • If you were just asking due to curiosity about Tolkien's ideas on subcreation, then you'd do better to read his essay "On Fairy-Stories". If you disagree with my comments here, then it is mis-aimed argumentation to focus on the weakest of the independent claims, because even if you turn out to be correct on that point, the stronger claims yet stand and thus your overall argument would fail. (This is related to "straw-manning" versus "steel-manning" an argument.)

            The strongest is probably the case of mathematical objects.

            Nevertheless, for the weakest, nearly everything you wrote is in error. First, Gandalf was your example, not mine. Second, Tolkien wrote books with a character named Gandalf but did not create Gandalf. Third, the character has no beginning in time because the character does not exist in time at all: only in story. Fourth is like the second: Tolkien did not cause Gandalf to exist, Tolkien only caused books about Gandalf to exist. Fifth, you wrote that these previous things imply that Gandalf is not a necessary being; it is true that Gandalf is not a necessary being, but your conclusion of that fact from the foregoing was a non-sequitur. Sixth, you wrote that Fr. Spitzer was defining "necessary being", whereas Fr. Spitzer wrote that he was defining "God". So your argument that subcreation does not meet Fr. Spitzer's definition has no ground to stand on. But I decline to make a positive case for it here, as I admit it's weak. Tolkien's essay is well worth reading, however.

            For the strongest case, let's consider another specific example. The set of real numbers is an important mathematical object. Being non-temporal, it has no beginning and is not conditioned by time. It is not, as you suggested in an earlier comment, dependent on our minds. A brain would have to have at least an aleph-C sized transfinite quantity of memory to contain it. Empirically, we see that millions of different people, with widely varying opinions and backgrounds, when considering the properties of the set of real numbers come to precisely the same conclusions regarding theorems about it, which would be a most remarkable coincidence if it had no reality independent of what they chose to think about it. The set is also not dependent on the physics of our universe, given that we discovered the set of real numbers by doing pure math, not physics. We don't even know whether our universe uses real numbers for anything. So there are substantial reasons to think the set of real numbers, and similarly other mathematical objects, meet Fr. Spitzer's definition. And consequently, I maintain that the definition is badly chosen. The definition has the properties Fr. Spitzer needed for his argument, but it is not God.

          • Josh

            I'll let your statements stand as they are about "sub-creation," as I think that anyone who reads them will see the absurdity that an author doesn't bring into being the characters in his story. Gandalf, or Sherlock Holmes, or whatever is not a Platonic Form existing in a third realm. Aristotle took care of that business.

            --"Sixth, you wrote that Fr. Spitzer was defining "necessary being", whereas Fr. Spitzer wrote that he was defining "God""--

            God as necessary being, yes. What is a non-contingent being? A necessary one. It's also what he was defining and giving the name of God to. This really is not controversial stuff.

            For your last point, where a discussion could fill a tome, I'll just ask, in what manner does the set of real numbers exist? As abstract particulars, most likely. And they either have causal power themselves and must be (necessary being), or they exist as created in the mind of God. So they too are contingent, just not in the same way as the other things you mention. You can have the last word; I'm afraid the fruitfulness is quickly leaving the building.

          • Ugh, that comment was merely a bunch of rhetorical moves: attempted public shaming, strawmanning, word-mincing, false dichotomy, shifting the topic, and back to the top again, in order.

            Nevertheless, it's an interesting subject. If someone would like to use logically valid methods of argument, I'd like to hear reasons why my criticism of Fr. Spitzer's definition might be wrong.

            (Incidentally, I'd really love it if Tolkien had actually created Gandalf. The world could use Mithrandir's wisdom and courage. And I'd like to smoke a pipe with him. Sadly, there seems no chance of that in my worldview -- nor in Catholicism, in which it would be heresy since only God has the power to create.)

          • Only God can create ex nihilo.

            Human beings create life through sex, though God "provides" the soul.

            Authors create characters, musicians create masterpieces (sometimes), and so on. If we're created in God's image, I like to think he bestowed on us his creative (lit.) powers. We just can't do it ex nihilo.

          • Josh

            Thank you for the distinctions there, Epicus. If Noah is an occasionalist, then that sheds some light on his position. And nothing you said is heretical for a Catholic to say; indeed, it is occasionalism that is considered heterodox.

          • Well, traditionally, "create" is ex nihilo and a prerogative of God, and creatures "make" out of pre-existing substance. But that's a definitional matter that few Catholics still care about, and if you prefer different terms we can use those.

            Insofar as it pertains to the above discussion: I think there was a lot of misleading metaphor in Josh's argument. Mothers literally make babies. Roboticists literally make robots. Authors literally make texts about characters, painters literally make images of characters, and sculptors literally make figures of characters, but none of them literally make the characters. At one end, one could argue that the characters are nothing more than our brains imagining them, and at the other, one could argue that Tolkien was right about "subcreation". I favor the latter on several grounds.

          • I love Tolkien's writings on subcreation and mythopoeia, but I don't see how they match the definition given above :

            "God is defined as a being that does not have a beginning, that is not dependent on anything for its existence, and that is not conditioned by time, and so God does not need a cause."

            Because they did begin to exist, and Tolkien was their "little-maker" so they were contingent upon Tolkien existing.

            If I'm misunderstanding, please let me know, I just jumped in recently because I saw the great Tolkien's name.

          • Oh, yes, you're plainly right that the texts Tolkien wrote had a beginning and were contingent. It's much less clear that the same is true of what those texts refer to.

          • I would like to just have a post on this site where theists and atheists can come together and talk about Tolkien. Can we make that happen, Brandon?

          • Josh

            Ok, so Gandalf is "made" then, by Tolkien, through an act of his will, putting pen to paper, writing a story. Prior to Tolkien's act, Gandalf as character did not exist, except in potentia. Is that any clearer? If so, then again, how does this fit Spitzer's definition? Tolkien himself says about sub-creation: "new form is made;
            Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator." Which of course implies that the form of (X) came to be, and again, Spitzer's definition of God is about things that always are. Or am I just strawmanning again, by attempting to answer you using your own terms and examples?

          • Hi Josh,
            I think this is going to get deleted since we're going in circles. Yes, your last comment is a strawman since you exactly reversed what I wrote, but it doesn't look intended. Think about what actually, literally, non-metaphorically occurred. Tolkien sat down to write. His brain collected some ideas for a character. He put ink to paper to make the printed word "Gandalf" and the other printed words that describe the character. Gandalf the wizard, however, was no more or less real after Tolkien wrote than before. If you wish to call Gandalf's manner of existence before Tolkien wrote existence "in potentia", then it seems that Gandalf has precisely the same existence "in potentia" now. The only thing that actually, literally, non-metaphorically differs in an obvious way is how many people think about that possibility before versus after.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You're just saying Gandalf is a character in a story, not a real person in reality.

            Gandalf can't really make fireworks. So Gandalf is not like the being Spitzer describes who can really make things, or rather, who accounts for the existence of real things in our universe.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You're just saying Gandalf is a character in a story, not a real person in reality.

            Let's fiddle with that a wee bit...

            "You're just saying God is a character in a story, not a real person in reality."

            Yip....that's about right.

            Gandalf can't really make fireworks. So Gandalf is not like the being Spitzer describes who can really make things, or rather, who accounts for the existence of real things in our universe.

            A bit like God really.

          • Sample1

            "Human beings create life through sex."

            Sex can produce a unique genome but life was already present in the sperm and ovum.

            Mike

          • Then humans create life before sex, and create other humans through sex.

          • Sample1

            Well, the astounding thing to realize, at least it is astounding to me, is that there is an unbroken line of life from the first time chemistry became biology right up to me and you. There's a popular t-shirt available that says, "It took 4.2 billion years to make something this perfect." Sure, not a shirt for all, but a remarkable fact that leaves me awestruck.

            For a couple of billion years now, life has not been created, it has subsisted within our genetic lineage.

            The point I'm trying to make is that nobody is aware yet how life began on Earth so to say it came from humans is an unevidenced claim. Life may have come from asteroids harboring microbial hitchhikers.
            Mike

          • I didn't say it originally came from humans, but you're right, its astounding that we have in us the capacity to make life.

          • Sample1

            I'm not saying you claimed it originally came from humans, though I can understand how my wording could be have been clearer.
            I've tried to persuade you by rational argument that humans don't create life, we perpetuate unique genomes through sex with life being a pre existing condition though not necessarily a guaranteed end.
            Mike

          • Max Driffill

            I'm not sure why it is all that astounding. I agree it is neat an all, but we are hardly the only animals on the planet that can reproduce, and has mammals go, our process is fraught with a great deal of risk and complication. I have to admit when I see statements like this I marvel that people think they are profound.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is a great point and won't it be awesome to discover how life arose from chemistry, or from where ever it emerged. Even if it hitchhiked here on an asteroid, that same transition still had to happen somewhere, sometime.

            Nevertheless, that still leaves open the question of beginnings.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Only God can create ex nihilo.

            Who says?

            Got evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've read Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" many times and I fail to see how what you say pertains to them, but please explain further.

            A major point Tolkien makes is that man is a "subcreator." We like to make things out of the created things we find in our universe.

            It's very interesting what you say about numbers, though. Yet numbers don't have any power to make anything. Their intelligibility is just there for any one with a rational mind to discover.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Please explain what you mean by "a unique possibility" and why this is necessary to define God.

      Second, please explain why must a metaphysical proof of *a* quality of God match every attribute of Divine Revelation.

      Spitzer is not attempting to establish that the being discovered through a metaphysical examination of the cosmological evidence for beginnings proves the God of Christianity (although he does establish many attributes of God in other metaphysical arguments in the same book).

  • As mentioned in the "Einstein and God" article on this website, there are cosmological models of the universe such as Hawkins' under which the universe has no true beginning, although it would appear to beings at our scale that there was a beginning. Until such beginningless models are ruled out, logical proofs which depend on the universe having a beginning are non-starters.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Do you mean the Hawkins and God article? (https://strangenotions.com/hawking-god/).

      In his book Spitzer deals extensively with the supposed beginingless cosmological models and shows on scientific grounds that they all require a beginning.

      • GreatSilence

        I enjoyed Spitzer's book, but personally found more value in the latter sections, the less cosmological sections. He does those better, in my view.

    • Such beginningless models have been ruled out:

      http://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.4658v1.pdf

      "We discuss three candidate scenarios which seem to allow the possibil-
      ity that the universe could have existed forever with no initial singularity:
      eternal inflation, cyclic evolution, and the emergent universe. The first
      two of these scenarios are geodesically incomplete to the past, and thus
      cannot describe a universe without a beginning. The third, although it
      is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum
      mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past."

  • It has become popular for theists to misuse the Borde, Guth & Vilenkin singularity theorem. William Lane Craig is one of the worst offenders. See this video presentation of the debunking of such: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE

  • mmurray

    If we run time backwards we get to the Planck epoch where everything is a quantum soup and most likely our everyday notions of causality no longer work. To discuss further you need to understand the physics and mathematics of modern cosmology. What came before the universe is no longer a subject you can discuss as a matter of logic or philosophy or theology if you don't have that requisite knowledge. You don't get it by doing a PhD in philosophy. You get it by doing a PhD physics and quite a few years of postdoctoral research.

    • AshleyWB

      I now counted at least five articles on this site that make this exact blunder. The misapplication of crude philosophical notions of causality to highly complex scientific questions such as the origins of existence seems to define the bulk of modern apology.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      From my reading of Spitzer, he does has an adequate grasp of modern cosmology in its many forms.

      Many modern cosmologists do posit a beginning of the universe with the "big bang" even though there is that incredibly short period of time after the singularity occurred that is hidden from observation.

      • Michael Murray

        Sorry but how can judge the adequacy of someones grasp of modern cosmology ? Have you got a degree in cosmology ?

        According to the article

        He earned his PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of America

        No degree in PhD, no publications or research career in cosmology. I wouldn't like to be hanging off a cliff edge relying on his "adequate grasp".

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Because he has done the work. Just as you are qualified to speak about philosophy and theology without a Ph.D. in either.

          Or do you have all those degrees? If so, I tip my hat to you.

          • Michael Murray

            Nope I haven't all those degrees. But you won't find me writing blogs on the internet in philosophy and theology.

            What work has he done in physics ? I couldn't see any.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know. We need somebody who knows physics to give his or her perspective.

  • Michael Murray

    if all beings have a beginning, then all beings will have been nothing prior to their beginning, but this means that nothing will ever come into existence. Why? Let’s say our universe is nothing without the existence of a prior reality, but that prior reality is nothing without the existence of another prior reality, and so forth ad infinitum. Then the whole of reality is nothing without prior realities, but we have no end to the prior realities (which are nothing).

    Every number is made from the number before it by adding 1. But that is made from the number before that by adding 1. So we can't every make any numbers. So there are no numbers.

    • articulett

      No... according the theistic argument, because numbers exist, there must be a number which always existed which is the uncaused first number that has no numbers before it... that... is... um... Jesus.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Is this some serious kind of logic? Does this have any relationship to Spitzer's argument?

      • Michael Murray

        It's demonstrating how absurd the argument is that you can't have an infinite regress of causality by analogy with the infinite extension of the negative integers. We've argued about this before haven't we ? Or maybe it was DAVID ?

        • It's demonstrating how absurd the argument is that you can't have an infinite regress of causality by analogy with the infinite extension of the negative integers.

          The integers are not a causal chain. -10,000,000 doesn't cause -9,999,999. Also, the existence of material things is different from the existence of numbers, if numbers can said to exist at all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            David to the rescue. Thanks.

          • josh

            Which demonstrates the poverty of Spitzer's understanding, since causes aren't logically required for any of his 3 'realities'.

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    While I find these kinds of arguments interesting intellectually, they do fall prey to two significant errors. The first is the simple fact that, according to current cosmological models, time is metric on the manifold that is the universe: there is no time at which the universe did not exist. The problem of 'something coming from nothing' is meaningless - nothing cannot 'exist' in any rational sense.

    The second is the eternal problem of defining god as the thing that is different, the acausal being. Why cannot the universe be acausal? We've seen from our work in cosmology that there was no time at which the universe did not exist; causality doesn't have to play a role in this at all.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Can you explain what you mean when you say "there is no time at which the universe did not exist"?

      According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry "Cosmology and Theology" (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmology-theology/), the consensus among cosmologists who hold to the standard model of cosmology is that the universe began at a finite time. I know there are many models, and many subtleties in each of them, and many unanswered questions, but I don't see the evidence for the claim that *it is a simple fact that there is no time at which the universe did not exist.*

      Your second point depends on the first, so until the first can be established I think it can be set aside.

      • Michael Murray

        If you mean this sort of thing

        The FRW spacetimes are extremely accurate descriptions of the large scale structure of our universe. Since these models describe a universe with a finite lifetime, it is reasonable to conclude that the universe has not always existed.

        There are two problems with this

        (1) The conclusion is wrong. Just because the universe is a finite amount of time old doesn't mean that the universe has not always existed. The words don't makes sense. "Always existed" implies time but there is no time before space-time, there is no "before". You can't do this kind of physics with words you need to do understand the mathematics.

        (2) These kinds of space-time models are space-time manifolds solving Einstein's equations. They are only good models of the universe when we can disregard quantum effects. So the don't work as we go back in time to the Planck Epoch.

        Honestly if you want to learn about physics talk to physicists not theologians.

        • " Just because the universe is a finite amount of time old doesn't mean that the universe has not always existed."

          >>So, all we are required to do is buy into the proposition that 13.8 billion years= infinity.

          Let us suppose this were not absurd.

          It certainly seems to be, doesn't it?

          But the phsyicists have been such good scientists, perhaps this makes them good metaphysicists as well?

          Let's see.

          "Always existed" implies time but there is no time before space-time because there is no "before"."

          >> But wait a minute. There was a universe 13.8 billion years ago. Not 13.9 billion years ago. So something happened, 13.8 billion years ago, to bring a universe into existence that was not in existence before it began to exist.

          In other words, 13.8 billion years *does not equal* infinity.

          Now at this point we can count down to blustering intimidation and handwaving in three.....two.....one......

          "Honestly if you want to learn about physics talk to physicists not theologians."

          >> The theologians are far better than the poor physicists on such questions, since the theologians are immune to absurdities such as:

          " Just because the universe is a finite amount of time old doesn't mean that the universe has not always existed."

          If you would like to see the absurdity shown to be an absurdity *from within the assumptions of quantum physics*, see, first, this paper (one author is Alan Guth, the originator of the inflation theory):

          http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/0110012v2.pdf

          "....it is natural to ask if the Universe could also be past-eternal. If it could, eternal inflation would provide a viable model of the Universe with no initial singularity. The Universe
          would never come into existence. It would simply exist.

          "This possibility was discussed in the early days of in-
          flation, but it was soon realized [6, 7] that the idea could
          not be implemented in the simplest model in which the
          inflating universe is described by an exact de Sitter space."

          Several proposals are subsequently advanced to get arounf this.

          The boil down to:

          1 Eternal inflation (the landscape/multiverse);

          2. Cyclic or epkyrotic eternally expanding and contracting universe

          3. Emergent universe

          All three are shown to be past-finite here:

          http://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.4658v1.pdf

          "Did the universe have a beginning?

          At this point, it seems that the answer to this question is probably yes. Here we have addressed three scenarios which seemed to offer a way to avoid a beginning,
          and have found that none of them can actually be eternal in the past. Both eternal inflation and cyclic universe scenarios have Hav > 0, which means that they must be past-geodesically incomplete. We have also examined a simple
          emergent universe model, and concluded that it cannot escape quantum collapse. Even considering more general emergent universe models, there do not seem to
          be any matter sources that admit solutions that are immune to collapse."

          Theologians win again.

          • Michael Murray

            But wait a minute. There was a universe 13.8 billion years ago. Not 13.9 billion years ago.
            <

            There was no time 13.9 billion years ago so the statement is meaningless.

            <

            >
            So something happened, 13.8 billion years ago, to bring a universe into existence that was not in existence before it began to exist.

            There is no reason something had to happen to bring the universe into existence. That is a massive logical leap.

            Some people would call it "barking madness".

          • "There is no reason something had to happen to bring the universe into existence. That is a massive logical leap."

            >> It is the contrary proposition that is a massive logical leap.

            It is false as a matter of philosophy.

            Unsurprisingly, it is also shown to be false as a matter of quantum physics:

            "http://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.4658...

            "Did the universe have a beginning?

            At this point, it seems that the answer to this question is probably yes. Here we have addressed three scenarios which seemed to offer a way to avoid a beginning,
            and have found that none of them can actually be eternal in the past. Both eternal inflation and cyclic universe scenarios have Hav > 0, which means that they must be past-geodesically incomplete. We have also examined a simple
            emergent universe model, and concluded that it cannot escape quantum collapse. Even considering more general emergent universe models, there do not seem to
            be any matter sources that admit solutions that are immune to collapse."

            Logic wins again.

          • Michael Murray

            The universe having a beginning is not the same as something having to happen to bring the universe into existence.

            Logical fail.

          • Nice to see you walking this back.

            Let's take the fallback position and examine it.

            Now, instead of "there is no reason something had to happen to bring the universe into existence" (which is falsified by the cited paper of Vilenkin, we have:

            "the universe having a beginning is not the same as something having to happen to bring the universe into existence"

            But this is plainly absurd.

            If something had a beginning, then something had to be brought from the state of non-exustence into the state of existence.

            Logic and philosophy and science unanimously testify:

            Theology wins again.

          • GreatSilence

            These fallback positions actually prove that an infinite regress is possible :)

          • Actually, they do not.

            Instead, the paper shows that there is no way to derive an infinite regress as a matter of quantum physics.

            It had already been well-established that an infinite regress was impossible as a matter of logic, philosophy, metaphysics, and theology.

          • GreatSilence

            It was a thing called humor, Rick. I thought the ":)" would give me away.

          • Ouch.

            Sorry.

          • Ignorant Amos

            What is half a second? What is half of half a second? What is half of half of half a second? What is half of half of half of half a second? Ad infinitum...just asking? }80)~

          • Ignorant Amos:

            Wanted to break the news- it's called the quantum of action for space, and the Planck time for time, and it is discrete, not continuous.

            Parmenides was wrong, you see.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You do have a problem with a bit of parody.

            Never heard of "Poe's Law"?

            ”Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing."

            See there at the end of my comment... }80)~...tilt yer head to the left...that's the devil in me smiling at ya.

          • josh

            Rick, you are badly misunderstanding the science. (And the logic.) As Michael has tried to explain, the universe can have a finite length in time from a singularity to now. Draw a hyperbola (y=1/x) on a graph. The singularity occurs at x=0, there is a finite distance from any point on the curve in the positive x region to the singularity. That distance is time in this analogy. There is no way to follow the curve backwards beyond x=0. So backwards time is finite but the curve has no beginning.There is no 'when' or 'prior to' the singularity on these models (which aren't necessarily good descriptions at the Planck time anyways.) Nothing here can get you to the God you presuppose.

          • Josh, it is you who are badly misunderstanding both the science and the logic.

            As a matter of logic, both the hyperbola and the universe have an origin.

            In physical terms, one begins to draw the hyperbola. and one begins to expand the universe.

            The claim that time comes into existence with the Big Bang is a logical contradiction, since it necessitates that time is not applicable to ontologically prior events.

            This is a self-contradiction, which takes the form of a circulus in probando- that is, it includes its conclusions in its premises (time does not exist before a Big Bang).

            The more rigorous formulation of the argument- in terms of a singularity- provides exactly the same difficulty for the "no time before" crowd, as Guth and Valentin show.

            The attempts to remove the singularity by means of eternal inflation and epkyrotic, cyclical universes both fail, as shown by Valentin above.

            The emergent universe proposal of Hawking fails on grounds of the collapsibility of the quantum state, which, as Valentin shows, rules out an eternal past for any such state.

            Logic, philosophy, science and theology all agree.

            Reason wins again.

          • josh

            Right, that's why so many scientists are religious and philosophers are held in unimpeachable regard, what with their iron-clad unity. Sheesh, come up for air once in a while.

            No one has ever drawn a complete hyperbola, it is a curve of infinite length. This is like arguing that the integers aren't infinite because I have to start counting if I want to enumerate them all.

            The term 'ontologically prior events' is gibberish unless you are going to offer rigorous definitions for each word in it. Events occur in time. Prior refers to relations in time. Ontologically is just fluff under which you are trying to bung in your unwarranted metaphysics.

            A circular argument isn't a contradiction, but the argument isn't circular in the first place. General relativity is a model of time (and space). A singular structure is a particular model within that framework. That model is self consistent, at least if you want it to support a finite time universe, which is your argument. Within that model, time has a cutoff point in the backwards direction. There is no time before that point. There is no beginning point either. I know it's not intuitive, but study a hyperbola until you get what I'm saying.

            Guth and co. make assumptions, in particular that general relativity continues to be a valid framework for early universe physics. There is no solid proof that a singularity has to occur.

          • "Right, that's why so many scientists are religious and philosophers are held in unimpeachable regard, what with their iron-clad unity. Sheesh, come up for air once in a while."

            >> It is you who must come up for air, in the face of the demonstration by Vilentin that no proposals for a past-infinite universe work.

            The fact that this demonstration comports with logic, with philosophy, and with theology, is a manifestation of the unity of truth on the question.

            "No one has ever drawn a complete hyperbola, it is a curve of infinite length. This is like arguing that the integers aren't infinite because I have to start counting if I want to enumerate them all."

            >> It is the beginning, not the end, of both the hyperbola, and of the universe, that is in view.

            It has been shown that logic, philosophy, science, and theology all arrive at the same conclusion, independently, by the application of their own proper methods:

            The universe has a beginning, and cannot have always existed.

            "The term 'ontologically prior events' is gibberish unless you are going to offer rigorous definitions for each word in it."

            >> Certainly.

            "ontological: relating to or based upon being or existence"

            This means: certain things are ontologically prior to other things, whether this is considered to be prior in time, or not.

            For example, one might argue that time begins at such and so a point.

            This does not remove the necessity of accounting for those things which are *ontologically* prior to the argued "beginning of time".

            "Events occur in time."

            >> The beginningmof the universe is an event, so you have just contradicted yourself.

            Again.

            "Prior refers to relations in time. Ontologically is just fluff under which you are trying to bung in your unwarranted metaphysics."

            >> To the contrary. You simply don't think very rigorously. See above for the necessary corrective.

          • josh

            "...demonstration by Vilentin that no proposals for a past-infinite universe work." False. One can't demonstrate this without accounting for all possible models. No respectable scientist would make a claim so broad. You can find the exceptions and conditions to their theorem with a little research.

            "ontological: relating to or based upon being or existence"

            So, since everything we can discuss can be described in terms of existence of some sort, this word adds nothing.

            "This means: certain things are ontologically prior to other things, whether this is considered to be prior in time, or not."

            What things? Please quit making assertions you can't back up. Please define what 'prior' means such that it includes but is larger than 'earlier in time' (which has it's own problems). Simply asserting that some unspecified things are prior isn't a definition.

            "The beginningmof the universe is an event, so you have just contradicted yourself." The beginning is a boundary in these models, not an event. I asked for your definition of event. You didn't give one.

          • josh:

            No proposals for a past finite universe work.

            That is a simple statement of fact.

            This statement is not:

            "All possible proposals for a past finite universes have been shown not to work".

            So your straw man fails.

            It should be noted, however, that the decade-and-a-half search by the very smartest guys in the field has yielded bupkus, and there are only so many possible mathematical elaborations of an expanding universe.

            Even more crucially, Vilenkin's work includes the devastating demonstration that *all expanding space times are not past-finite*.

            In other words, in order to advance a possible future proposal for a past-finite universe, one must first assert that the universe is not expanding.

            As to the rest of your objections, they are already dealt with above.

          • josh

            So what you meant was, three proposals for an infinite past don't work under certain assumptions. Whoop-de-doo. Seriously, I'm not knocking the papers, they might be important contributions to the research on cosmology. But you want to make them into much more sweeping and unassailable statements than they can support. Here let me quote from the BGV paper:

            "inflation
            alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of
            the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order
            to determine the correct conditions at the boundary."

            Inflation models by themselves don't give you an infinite past. But eternal inflation models aren't the only game in town.

            I think you've sufficiently demonstrated that you don't understand my other statements.

          • "So what you meant was, three proposals for an infinite past don't work under certain assumptions."

            >> No. I meant what I said, which is:

            "No proposals for a past infinite universe work."

            "Whoop-de-doo. Seriously, I'm not knocking the papers, they might be important contributions to the research on cosmology."

            >> They are indeed that. In fact, they have the effect of falsifying all currently existing theories for a past-infinite universe, and all possible future theories for a past-infinite universe which expands.

            It is, in short, not looking good for any possible future elaboration of a past-infinite universe.

            Which has been patiently explained for several centuries by the theologians and philosophers.

            "But you want to make them into much more sweeping and unassailable statements than they can support. Here let me quote from the BGV paper:

            "inflation
            alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of
            the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order
            to determine the correct conditions at the boundary."

            >> It is certain that new physics is necessary, or, alternatively, our models are certainly wrong.

            That much is certainly established.

            "Inflation models by themselves don't give you an infinite past. But eternal inflation models aren't the only game in town."

            >> As has already been shown, there are no other models which are past-infinite, and no possibility of future models which are past infinite if the universe has expanded.

            That's about as gentle of a way as I can put it to you, Josh.

            I could be a little more blunt.

            Game over for a past-infinite universe, unless you can somehow show that the Universe has never expanded.

          • josh

            You could be blunt, try being incisive. So far you are flailing. The statement is not that the universe has a finite past if it has ever expanded. Incomplete models mean we can't draw certain conclusions from said models, viz., you can't say that an inflationary model is incomplete AND that it conclusively shows a finite past universe. No proposals you know of are complete, that's fine.

            Please note that the reasons that lead to the results of the BGV paper, don't follow from theological or philosophical arguments about infinities or past events. That's because the conclusions you want to draw aren't supported by the flawed theological arguments you would wish to advance. The scientific conclusions, valid within their defined set of models and assumptions, aren't the conclusions you want.

            Then go back and realize that I'm not committed to an infinite or finite past, I'm just pointing out the deficiencies in your understanding of what has and hasn't been proved. Finite or infinite, either way, you don't get the conclusions you want.

          • "The statement is not that the universe has a finite past if it
            has ever expanded"

            >> That is precisely what the statement is:

            "A more general incompleteness theorem was proved recently [3] that does not rely on energy conditions or Einstein’s equations. Instead, it states simply that past geodesics are incomplete provided that the expansion rate averaged along the geodesic is positive: Hav > 0. This is a much weaker condition, and should certainly apply
            to the past of any inflating region of spacetime. Therefore, although inflation may be eternal in the future, it cannot be extended indefinitely to the past."

            I would suggest you attend to the deficiencies in your own thinking here, josh, since the phi,osophers and theologians derived this result centuries before the quantum theorists got around to affirming it.

          • josh

            averaged is the key word. An eternally inflating model has a positive average Hubble constant. Some other model, say, one where expansion occurs but isn't the average condition, is not ruled out.

          • josh:

            You have made a lot of very brash comments concerning the great genius Aquinas.

            It is for those comments that I address these final remarks to you.

            "averaged is the key word."

            >> Yes it is, josh. It is the key word itself.

            "An eternally inflating model has a positive average Hubble constant"

            >> Yes it does, josh. So, of course, does every other model that involves expansion. Any expansion whatsoever. Because that is just what Hao>0 *means*, Josh.

            It *means*, any expansion *whatsoever*.

            It- *average*- is the word which allows us to observe that what you type next may very well be the single most breathtakingly stupid comment ever posted in the history of Strange Notions.

            Attend...........

            "Some other model, say, one where expansion occurs but isn't the average condition, is not ruled out."

            >> Now let's let this one just sort of sit there for a moment.

            In all of its glory.

            Just sort of take it in.

            Josh, you see, is a very smart guy, he tells us all the time how smart he is compared to those stupid dolts like Thomas Aquinas.

            Yes indeedy.

            Now josh think this one through if you can.

            It will sting but it will be very good for you.

            Given:

            A model where spacetime expands. Only a very little bit.

            Say one quintillionth of a nanometer per hundred million years, or so.

            OK?

            Good.

            Now.

            Consider:

            Is the average expansion- Hao- equal to, or greater than, 0?

            Come on big fella.

            You can do it.

          • josh

            Try to picture something which contracts, then expands. Now stretch your imagination to conceive something which contracts more during the contraction phase than it expands during the expansion phase. I'll include a diagram:
            time I /
            | /
            | /
            | /
            | /
            |___________________
            distance

            Now calculate the average change in distance. Now suppose we are in the upper cone and we don't really understand the physics around the smallest point.

          • josh:

            Your universe above satisfies the condition Ha0 0.

            This universe cannot be past infinite because this universe has Hao >0.

            Your universe cannot be past infinite because Hao 0, meaning that the universe is past-incomplete."

            Best post I ever saw from you though.

          • josh

            Yes, my illustration shows Hav 0. That statement applies to models, not necessarily reality. My 'model' above doesn't specify an infinite duration of getting smaller, it can stabilize infinitely into the past for all I care, or be cyclical.

            Now you want to argue that entropy causes problems for some specific model, which is moving beyond the BGV results. I'll just say that entropy is notoriously hard to deal with consistently when you involve general relativity, and it doesn't even appear at the microscopic level of our equations.

          • Josh:

            Then let us summarize.

            Your model boils down to:

            We have no idea of the physics and so it could be.

            This is not a compelling model.

            It does not satisfy existing observations, since there is no observational evidence of an earlier contraction.

            It simply proposes that somewhere off beyond our ability to observe, it might have happened.

            But this is scientifically falsified on grounds of what we *do* observe, especially that we *do* observe entropy and we cannot have a past-infinite universe along the lines you suggest without first dispensing with entropy.

            Other than that, of course, one can grant that your universe does not satisfy the condition Hao>0, and hence is not falsified by the specific paper (which is not BGV, by the way, but rather Mithani, Vilenkin 2012).

            On the other hand, all of the scientific evidence points to the opposite conclusion; that is, the scientific evidence supports entropy and a universe with Hao>0.

            As Vilenkin summarizes the matter:

            “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rick,

            I really do admire your knowledge and persistence in this back and forth engaging Josh and MM.

            But I question the effectiveness of some of your rhetoric. True rhetoric is the art of stating the truth in the most effective way for the hearer. If you have chosen your mode of discourse consciously because you think it will be the most effective way to persuade others, then fine. If it is just your default way of communicating, I'd suggest you look at it again.

          • Kevin:

            Thank you for your intervention, and because in this particular instance I am being justly rebuked, I want to say that my very ill-advised attempt to paint josh as "stupid" was very gently and impressively handled by him.

            Mea maxima culpa.

          • Michael Murray

            Note that we use the term “beginning” as being synonimous to past incompleteness.

            You read this footnote of course ?

          • Yes.

            It means that your premise "There is no reason something had to happen to bring the universe into existence. That is a massive logical leap" has been falsified as a matter of quantum physics.

            It was already false as a matter of logic and philosophy.

            Logic, science, and philosophy win again.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I'm treading lightly because I am not a scientist.

          But don't scientists and philosophers, including those who believe in God, need to be in dialogue so they don't say silly things outside their domain of expertise?

          Spitzer is quoted on YouTube criticizing Hawking for using the word "nothing" when he really means "something." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1cy3iCrxic

          In a similar way, you write, "just because the universe is a finite amount of time old doesn't mean that the universe has not always existed." In other words, you are saying "finite" and "always" mean the same thing.

          • Michael Murray

            No I'm saying that you cannot get from "the universe is finitely old" to "the universe has not alway existed". Before the universe there was no time. It doesn't mean anything to talk about existence when there is no time.

  • articulett

    How is your god different than nothing? Aren't you just saying because the universe can't come from nothing, it must come from a god made of nothing? Why do you imagine this god made of nothing is conscious without a brain?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If God is "nothing" then God does not exist. So if God exists, he is not nothing.

      Spitzer does not argue that God is "made of nothing."

      Rather, "God is defined as a being that does not have a beginning, that is not
      dependent on anything for its existence, and that is not conditioned by
      time, and so God does not need a cause."

      The argument does not address God's consciousness. That is a separate question which this argument does not deal with.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    In reading this two-month old post and all the comments, I don't see any serious criticism of Spitzer's arguments presented.

    It might be good to repost it so people can respond in light of all they have "learned" in the interim.

    • josh

      Kevin,
      There is so much wrong here it is hard to know where to begin. Spitzer's 3 'realities' don't require a cause, that is a poorly defined assumption he is smuggling in. His definition of God is incorrect. His understanding of beginnings and causes and 'nothing' is hopelessly mangled. His conclusion that 'God' doesn't need a cause is question begging. His interpretation of modern cosmology is suspect, to be generous. If you want to discuss these things seriously we need to start at the beginning and consider what we really mean by 'cause' and 'beginning' and etc.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        If there is "so much wrong" please pick one thing wrong, explain what you find flawed, and let's go from there.

        • josh

          Let's start with a good definition of 'cause'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sounds good. How is Spitzer misusing this term?

          • josh

            It's his argument so I expect him to define his terms before claiming any evidence or demonstration. Nonetheless, I'll oblige you.

            A cause is a heuristic way of thinking about things that humans employ because of our one-way linear view of time and our approximate way of thinking about every day events. I suspect it relates to our thinking about our selves: that we decide things and 'take action' and have 'powers' which we choose to employ or not. Hence the theological insistence on what does and doesn't have causative power.

            But that's not really the way humans work, nor the universe at large from what we can see. Things are logically related to each other and those relations allow us to make predictions. This is clear in mathematics. IF I start with 'a triangle has 3 sides' and Euclidean axioms, I can prove that the interior angles add up to 180 degrees. But 3 sides doesn't cause the interior angles, unless we also allow that the angles cause there to be 3 sides. It's not a one way relation. There is no 'power' that must be passed from a 'prior' thing to a 'contingent' thing. There are sufficient conditions to get from one statement to another, that's it.

            So turning to events in the universe, things seem to work the same way. Given the state of the universe at one time, we can extrapolate to the state at another time if we know all the laws. But which direction we go is only a matter of perspective. We could in fact take the state along all of time and extrapolate from one point in space to another. We could even hope that some simple statement of laws can be used to explicate the entire structure of the universe. Sort of like saying 'The derivative of this function is everywhere equal to its value' determines an exponential curve. But that's not a cause in any traditional sense. It is a description.

            Moreover, if we take undeterministic quantum mechanics seriously, there is no cause for certain facts outside of themselves, which are also not necessary. That's what true randomness would have to imply.

            You may say, 'A description isn't a cause. You still need a cause.' But I'm pointing out that I can always reduce your requirement for a cause, which is unevidenced, to a description. God relates to the universe in such and such way. That relation is in general arbitrary. What would be useful is if we could use a definition of God to extrapolate characteristics of the universe, like saying that Gravity follows an inverse square law for all masses. But no such useful description of God has been posited, particularly one which also implies the 'Godly' characteristics that are needed to make the word useful for religion.

            So basically, there are massive problems with the naive notion of cause that Spitzer never explores.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Josh,

            I've given your post serious thought (to the extent that I'm capable of it) and I'm not convinced.

            You seem to be saying the normal meaning of cause and effect is only a description so in essence is only an illusion.

            I know particle physicists say weird things go on at the subatomic level that are not understood (like random radioactive decay), however, science as a whole is predicated on the notion that cause and effect are real and testable.

            Artigas argues that

            "The dilemma of quantum mechanics calls for a distinction between the problem of causality and the problem of indeterminism. It is one thing to affirm that every effect must have real cause (causality in the philosophical sense). It is a very different thing to demand that all natural causes act in accord with the laws of determinism (in the classical physics sense that it must always be possible in principle to predict a trajectory exactly).

            ("Knowing Things for Sure: Science and Truth" University Press of America, 2006, p. 20.)

            So just what are Spitzer's naive notions which involve massive problems?

          • josh

            I just outlined at length some of Spitzer's naive notions in my last post above. My case doesn't rest on quantum indeterminacy. I'm saying 'cause' doesn't seem to have a direction, that's an illusion or a matter of perspective that comes from our tendency to see ourselves as moving forward in time. This becomes doubly a problem when one claims that God is outside of time. This perspective destroys Spitzer's argument. If you want to try and resuscitate it you need to provide a rigorous definition of cause (and preferably show that it applies to the universe). Artigas, at least in your quote, doesn't do that at all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To simplify things, let's leave God being outside of time outside of the discussion for now.

            Cause and effect do have a direction: they move forward in time.

            Definition: Cause is that which produces an effect.

            How it applies to the universe: A bee stings me (cause). I feel pain (effect).

          • josh

            What does it mean to produce something in this context. Does the number 1 produce the number 2 or vice versa. You can define the 'cause' as the lower number and the 'effect' as the higher, but that is arbitrary so it does not tell you anything fundamental about the underlying structure. You feel pain, from which I infer a bee sting. The pain has 'caused' the sting.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You don't produce anything real in mathematical reasoning, which has nothing to do with its usefulness.

            I don't think cause and effect pertains to mathematics.

          • josh

            I'm asking how you know cause and effect pertains to the physical or otherwise universe when our most sophisticated understanding of said universe is mathematical. Also, I wonder if you will be consistent in asserting that mathematical reasoning can produce nothing real, but philosophical 'proofs' are offered for God.

            Basically, I'm encouraging you to think very hard about what you do and don't know about cause and effect. The real universe often confounds our intuitive assumptions and heuristics.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            From what I understand about science, mathematics is an incredibly powerful tool for understanding the universe and making predictions about phenomena in it.

            However, mathematics doesn't make anything happen in the universe. Mathematical formulas describe and predict, they don't cause. I suppose you could say they are effects of human minds, but again, they are effects which cannot cause other effects.

            Philosophical proofs don't cause God; rather, if they succeed, they show he must exist, at least to the extent of the proof, like God is a necessary being or uncaused cause.

            I'm open to thinking deeply about cause and effect, but you'll have to show me how my intuitive assumptions make these concepts lose their meaning.

          • josh

            The 'philosophical proofs' bit was just to head off ontological proofs and 'God is defined as the source...' proofs that essentially try to define God into existence. But it's a bit tangential at the moment.

            Mathematics is basically a way of making our statements rigorous so that we can honestly say that something is true or not. We increasingly find that the mathematics defines what is 'really' true and it can't be translated back into our 'gut' feelings. At a certain level, quantum field theory and general relativity are the fundamental truths, at least more fundamental than solids and liquids and gasses, or light or 'empty space', etc. and they are mathematical, they are defined by the theory. And in these theories 'cause' and 'effect' aren't fundamental or necessary terms. There are relations, these relations can be used to predict some data given another set as input. You have just argued that such relations by themselves don't constitute cause and effect. So I'm asking how you know that cause and effect apply to the physical universe.

            Or go back to my original question, how do you or Spitzer or anyone define cause. Otherwise you can't make an argument.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Philosophical proofs don't define something into existence. If A is a requirement for B and B exists, then A must exist (or have existed). Applied to God, for example, if conditioned realities require at least one unconditioned reality to exist, and a conditioned reality exists, an unconditioned reality must exist also. (That is the gist of one of Spitzer's metaphysical arguments, I think.)

            I don't understand how the behavior of subatomic particles affect common-sense notions of cause and effect. That's something I'll have to study.

          • josh

            That's a cosmological argument. It's mistaken but I was talking about ontological arguments, which do attempt to define God into existence.

            Don't get too hung up on subatomic particles. The underlying flaws in say, Aquinas analysis of causes, as also of forms, essences, etc. have been there from the beginning. Modern physics just provides a convenient illustration. That's why I keep asking you to start with what 'cause' could mean, rigorously defined, and then how you would 'know' that one thing caused another.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Oh, THE ontological argument of St. Anselm. I don't know of anyone who subscribes to it but a lot of philosophers keep it around because they suspect it's going to be useful someday in some way.

            I thought my bee sting example did just that. Cause is that which makes something else be the case. Effect is the change brought about.

            A bee lands on my arm. It stings me. I cry. The bee stinging me causes the effect of stinging pain which causes me to cry.

          • josh

            An example isn't a definition. I gave you the case of 1 'causing' 2 to be in a mathematical framework. How do you know that one thing makes another to be? Since I can always take the position that both things 'are', and they are simply in relation to each other, which allows me to derive the existence of one given the other, where is your 'makes to be' doing any additional work that allows you to draw a distinction?

            The bee stings you, does the sting cause the pain? Or does the existence of your nerves cause the pain? Or do the laws of physics which say how signals travel up your nervous system cause the pain? Or does the absence of an anesthetic cause pain? The fact is, the entire state of the universe at one point in time leads to the state at the next and the laws of physics describe the relation between the two. But the laws equally lead from the present to the past. Change is relative to a movement in time in this case, which is a change itself. So one piece doesn't cause the other, both exist and the change from one to the other is a change of perspective. The whole is unchanging.

            So the thing to realize is that if you add God to this picture, you haven't accomplished anything. God and the 'universe' become just parts of the meta-universe, and the existence of the meta-universe 'causes' the existence of God and the universe and their relations to one another.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your honor, I object.

            First, it is not necessary to posit God's direct action in anything that happens in the universe. Second, I think we should leave aside any discussion of God's existence from cause and effect when we don't yet have any confidence that they mean anything.

            Third, everything you add to my illustration of the bee sting just points out how complex cause and effect are. It is still a chain of events which begins with the bee and ends with my tears, one causing the next.

            Fourth, your claim that "the entire state of the universe at one point in time leads to the state at the next and the laws of physics describe the relation between the two" sounds like you just don't want to call it cause and effect or you want to say there is no relationship between the bee sting and my blubbering. It sounds like the bumper sticker "Sh!t Happens."

            Fifth, You say, "But the laws equally lead from the present to the past. Change is
            relative to a movement in time in this case, which is a change itself.
            So one piece doesn't cause the other, both exist and the change from one
            to the other is a change of perspective. The whole is unchanging." That sounds like some Western version of garbled eastern mysticism. My tear didn't result in the bee stinging me.

            Science relies on the principle that every effect must have a cause. As philosopher of science Mariano Artigas puts it when discussing the "exception" of quantum mechanics: "Difficulties in interpreting quantum mechanics spring from confusing causality with trajectory determinism." (Knowing Things for Sure, p. 21).

          • josh

            Overruled! :)

            First, it's not necessary to posit God's action of any type, nor existence. Second, if we don't have any confidence about the existence of cause and effect my point is won and Spitzer's argument is as naive as I claimed.

            Third, yes, I've argued that cause and effect are much more complicated than the article understands. Your example is not a chain beginning with the bee and ending with your tears, it begins with the universe at one point in time and ends at another, which also ignores the universe beyond those arbitrary stopping points. It is simply begging the question to assert that this is causation after the points I have raised.

            Fourth, I explicitly say there is a relationship between the bee and your pain, just that calling it cause and effect ignores the wider considerations which you really can't do when you want to make an argument like Spitzer's.

            Fifth, my point about perspective has nothing to do with mysticism of any variety. It is modern science which is rather international at this point. The metaphysics on which you wish to fall back is mysticism.

            Science relies on the possibility of observing regularities and modelling them in a consistent way. I'm not really interested in Artigas's quote without some elaboration of what it means and how he argues for it. As before, Quantum Mechanics is not fundamental to my point.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You're going to have refer me to some outside source that discusses the ideas of cause and effect your are referring to.

  • Urbane_Gorilla

    "God is defined as a being that does not have a beginning.." .. Uhhhh... Who defined it as such? Man did..People with limited understanding of our world..Pople who admit they don't understand 'God' ..People who raised sheep and never had the benefit of a science eductaion... Seriously? You lend credence for the immutability of this God based on ravings of uneducated people who lived in mud huts? Sheesh!

    • Gliese581d

      If you have a definition of God from another species, please share it.

      People with limited understanding offer the definition. Do you offer something different, from unlimited understanding? Please don't pick on people who raise sheep. They are people, too. They are entitled to their opinions. Sometimes their experiences and opinions are valid. Not all shepherds lack "the benefit of a science eductaion" ;). You shouldn't condemn people because of their profession or education (or lack thereof) any more than you should because of their race or religion. If you will re-read (or maybe just read?) the article again, you will see that for the conclusions made in the article there is no dependence on anybody's" ravings," not shepherds', not theists', not atheists', not yours. It's hard, I know, it takes effort and an open mind, but you really should try to follow the reasoning, whether you agree with every point or not, in order to understand how by that particular set of reasoning, as applied to the particular evidence provided, the conclusions reached are coherent and possible. If it's still not enough for your [un]limited understanding, then get the book. After all, the brief blog-post above is not being given as The Final And Complete Evidence For Everything. It is merely an outline of what is offered in full detail in the full book "New Proofs for the Existence of God." You can find lots of things to nit-pick in summaries and outlines. If that's how you get your energy and sense of fulfilment, God bless you. But if you want genuine understanding, if you don't want to remain limited in your understanding of the issues and how they are presented ("argued"), then you should read more than blogs and comments. You should actually get out and read a book. God bless you for that, too, if you do it.

      • Urbane_Gorilla

        I stand by my statement. The author is a Catholic priest and his article was aligned with the Christian God. I see no reference to alien gods, nor for that matter Gaia, Loki, Ares, Baal, or Vishnu.

        • Gliese581d

          Then stand by it, don't change it. Or change it, which means don't stand by it.

          "The author is a Catholic priest and his article was aligned with the Christian God." If that were an argument against his position, then an argument against your positive would be, "The poster is an atheist and his post was aligned with the atheist concept of God." In other words, in stating the obvious, you are stating nothing.

          First of all, you did not say the article was aligned with "the Christian God." If you want to stand by that, that's different. But what you had said was, "Who defined it as such? Man did." - But not all men are Christians. Then you elaborated, compounding your error, "People with limited understanding of our world..Pople who admit they don't understand 'God ..People who raised sheep and never had the benefit of a science eductaion... Seriously?" You are the one to whom the question "Seriously?" should be asked. You obviously are quite in the dark about those who have made honest attempts to understand and describe God, whether apophatically, hyperphatically, or by analogy. Few if any (I can't think of any off-hand) "raised sheep," nor do I know of any who lacked "the benefit of a science education" available at their time in their civilization. You are correct, however, in noting that there are people who admit they don't understand God; your post as much as admits that you do not understand God. But then you condemn those who do have an understanding: however incomplete and imperfect it may be, it is an understanding which you do not have. There have been primitive peoples who sought to destroy what they did not understand. That's what primitive minds are like - afraid, stuck in their ways, destructive.

          I have previously stated that the above essay is an abbreviation of Spitzer's book. Your comment that you see "no reference to alien gods," shows that you are in the dark about what the book actually says in regards to gods other than the unique, unconditioned reality posited by Spitzer. What you are doing is worse than using a straw man: that would entail bringing up something legitimate but irrelevant. You are bringing up something relevant but illegitimate.

          A couple of quotes from the full version should be sufficient to demonstrate that you are nit-picking about something that doesn't exist! In the final pages where Spitzer, a man who believes in a God, and who has every right to put those beliefs in print, in as few or as many words as he wishes, enters into a discussion of ways to describe God, he writes prefatory to touching on suffering and love, "For the moment, I will endeavor a brief answer, though this is quite dangerous because the superficiality intrinsic to brevity may cause resentment on the part of readers who have suffered greatly. You have proved his point, in expressing your resentment over the above essay, because of its natural and unavoidable intrinsic superficiality. By its very nature, it cannot and does not address all the "problems" you think you see. If you want to avoid hard work and just read a preview of his book, then the above essay is sufficient, I suppose. But if you think you are going to play the role of some great literary critic or superior philosophizer, then man up and read the book, so you will know what Spitzer is actually saying - including the reasoning and evidence - so you will save yourself form the appearance of being an unread neophyte.

          "I see no reference to alien gods". There's a lot you don't see. The essay consists of eleven short paragraphs. The book is nearly 300 pages plus a 15 page bibliography. If you think any off-hand criticism you give for the above essay has legitimate bearing on the full analysis found in the book itself, you are sadly mistaken. It's like screaming at how painful the light is, while one cowers in the darkness of a closet. As long as one stays in the dark, his eyes won't hurt. But if he ever wants to see clearly, which he will do unless he really loves the darkness an awful lot, he's got to accept the light no matter how painful it will be initially to his untrained, inexperienced eyes.

          What, one wonders, in the context of the book, could you possibly mean by "alien god"? Your reference makes absolutely no sense. It is absurd. It makes manifest what some atheists believe, their terribly mistaken, even absurd notion of what God _would be_, if there weren't one and we tried to imagine one. Your first problem here is that "alien" refers to "someplace else." Therefore, you have already committed an absurdity by placing God - I'm referring here to the God described by Spitzer in the book in question - in a space-field. In naming the other gods from various cultures, you place Spitzer's God within and bound by a temporal field as well. ALL of YOUR "gods" are alien gods - inconsistent with the definitions, explanations, descriptions, and proofs provided by Spitzer. he is talking about a transcendent, unconditioned reality. You are talking about manifest, conditioned things: whether they are realities or not, is immaterial (pun not intended, but I'm happy to take credit for it nonetheless). What matters is that in their existence (real or not), they are neither transcendent nor unconditioned. So how could you possibly think there would be any use in referring to those specific gods as alternatives to the God Spitzer actually defines and proves?

          As an aside, if ancient cultures believed in gods such as Baal and Vishnu, that is not evidence that there is no god, nor even that they believed in a "false" god. that is evidence of Spitzer's contention about the "intelligibility" and "transcendent intelligibility" of God. Whatever "god" anybody - anybody - believes in will be less than the real God. Why? Spitzer explains clearly in the book. (You should read it.) For the moment, I will endeavor a brief answer, though this is quite dangerous because the superficiality intrinsic to brevity may cause an ill-considered attack from those with a different world-view. We live in a material universe (and apparently with one that is not "material" but which interrelates with the material), which has extrinsic and intrinsic limitations. Therefore, whenever we think of something, we think of it as we do of all things we have seen, heard, smelled, touched, tasted, and intuited - as having extrinsic and intrinsic limitations. So we put God in human form - or animal or plant or statue or airy - limited in some ways by space and time, even by intellect, volition, and emotions. We get a "picture" of a fundamentally pictureless reality, and we call that picture "God."

          Spitzer DOES refer to other proposed gods, by the way. If you had read his book, you would know this, and would have saved yourself the embarrassment of making the false accusation that he refers only to "the Christian God". Granted he does refer a lot to the (or a) Christian God, and I'm sure his Catholic background and training influenced him to discover a God which at least partially matches the traditional Catholic description; nonetheless, the fact that he deals with the God of his faith - "the Christian God" - does not invalidate his arguments any more than the differences - yes, there are differences - he notes, should invalidate his arguments in the eyes of devout traditional Catholics. Frankly, when reading treatments of people's beliefs in God, it does not bother me, ever, when they describe the God they believe in, in terms that are commonly found in the religion they follow. That's natural. Just as natural as people who do not believe in God describing the impossibility of God in terms of their materialistic belief system. It's natural. It's obviously prejudicial in both cases, but prejudices do not in themselves prove error; they only tell us what a person's perspective is, and we take that into account when evaluating their contentions. You are an atheist, so naturally you cannot get much out of a book, no matter how well it presents the evidence, that not only does not support your beliefs, but to the contrary proves them invalid and does so with stark clarity and irrefutable evidence. And it's also natural that you can get nothing out of a book that you haven't even read.

  • Michael Murray

    if a reality—say, our universe—has a beginning, then that beginning point represents the point at which the universe came into existence (including its physical time). Prior to that point the physical universe did not exist—in other words, it was nothing—absolute nothing.

    "Prior to". There is no time so what does "prior to" mean ?

    • Gliese581d

      "Nothing."
      Dr. Spitzer explains his use of "words of convenience" (my phrase) in order to explain things for which words are lacking. By the same token, for most of his treatment of the physics (and the rationality) of existence and "the beginning" he avoids the use of the word "God," preferring "unconditioned reality" or "transcendent reality" or something like that. Prior to the physical universe (conditioned reality) there was unconditioned reality. But, as Dr. Spitzer and his co-author explain, the "field" of space-time, as also other fields do not exist. Therefore, "prior to" the existence of a space-time field, would refer to an unconditioned reality which is not conditioned by space and time.

  • Gliese581d

    I have read quite a few comments. Most people commenting on Dr. Spitzer's above post, obviously have not read the book he refers to, in which he gives more than sufficient explanation (and definitions if that's what concerns you) for his terms and concerns. Commenters, like so many places on the internet, are taking a few sentences and criticizing them because they don't do this and they don't do that - as in fact a set of few sentences neither can do nor are intended to do. They are the argument in a nutshell. Comments should reflect that. Instead, comments are pretending to address the entire big picture of the issue - which picture is not provided in the post. Such comments would be better placed imo where there are reviews of the book itself. I realize that legitimate posts would then carry the implication that the poster had read (and in this case studied, since it is not light reading) the book itself. I wonder - I don't know but I wonder - if any people post here because it's easier than debating the points where there are reviews and comments made by others who have read the book.

    • Michael Murray

      So commenting on it here is somehow evidence of our intellectual cowardice ?

    • David Nickol

      I wonder - I don't know but I wonder - if any people post here because
      it's easier than debating the points where there are reviews and
      comments made by others who have read the book.

      There are many regular commenters here, myself among them, and we comment here because we read the posts and react to them. This seems to be what those who run the site have in mind.

      I think it would be a great thing to have a book discussion now and then on a book that we are told well in advance will be a topic of discussion. Then those of us who were interested enough to read the book could discuss it in detail. But on a site where there are two or three new posts a week, it is unreasonable to expect commenters to rush out and read a book when a new post is published.

      Note also that this post was written for another site as a stand-alone article. Fr. Spitzer does not say, "This is just a sample of my thinking. You must read my book before commenting."

      You can stop wondering now. :P

      • Gliese581d

        Thanks. :)

  • Michael

    If one contends the universe always existed, expanding, them contracting, to produce another big bang ad infinit there is the premise it always was and leaves the question unanswered 'where did it come from?' More reasonable, in my mind, is God has always existed, has no beginning and no end, because His dimension is WITHOUT TIME. He created a new dimension which included time and matter by speaking which is supported by Genesis chapter one...YHVH spoke and it came to be. The very word we use 'universe' means uni = one, verse = spoken words!

  • upsidedown

    So exactly where does existence itself come from? If god has existence beyond Space-Time then how does existence itself arise. For god to exist there must be existence beyond space time.
    Secondly, how does god "decide" to create the universe without thought? Thought is a function of entropy and entropy is a funtion of Space-Time and energy, yet god seemingly is capable of time, space and energy functions without space, time and energy.
    Please explain.

    • Sample1

      Raven, a deity where I live in Alaska, is the twig of all existence. The very Perch if you will.

      Christians think their god is the ground of all being. Something like that.

      Like all naturalists, I just prefer to say, "who knows?" and pass the ketchup.

      Mike