Adjudicating Between World-views: Part 5 – Examining The Origin Of The Universe

Last time I presented two key concepts: science shows us that all space, time, matter, and energy are finite in time – there is a beginning to the universe (or multi-verse, quantum vacuum, etc.). As well, we saw that infinity refers to a limit (one that cannot be actualized or reached), not an actual value which can be reached. It therefore follows that infinity, by definition, cannot exist in reality.

Let’s go through our 3 world-views and see how they meet the criteria. Note: we will be saving the test of experiential relevance for the end of the series so we can apply it to each world-view as a whole.

LETS TEST

ATHEISM: Atheism posits that there is nothing outside of the world of matter and energy. That is, atheism must be naturalistic or materialistic. Most forms of atheism say that the universe, or some previous space-time reality, is the prime reality. Atheism cannot posit that something outside nature caused the universe to come into existence, because on atheism there is nothing but the natural world.

So the atheistic world-view is really stuck with saying that either the universe is eternal, it came into existence from and by nothing, or it caused itself.

So here it fails the test for logical consistency. An eternal universe means an actual infinite past exists – but we already know that this is not metaphysically possible. To say that the universe came into being by nothing is incoherent. And the universe cannot cause itself, that is also incoherent.

Atheism also fails the test of empirical adequacy because the evidence says that the universe – and all space-time reality – is finite in it’s past time. There is an absolute beginning to space, time, energy, and matter. But atheism’s main tenant is that these things are part of the prime reality, thus it fails this test.

MONISM: Monism posits that the ultimate reality is an impersonal and undifferentiated force, sometimes pantheistic. Pantheistic views fail the first two tests (logical consistency and empirical adequacy) because we know the universe on a logical basis and empirical basis cannot be eternal. Thus the pantheistic God is not an eternal being, but a finite being (i.e. not really God after-all).

What about the idea of an impersonal and undifferentiated force? The problem here is that an impersonal and undifferentiated force could not have brought the universe into being – since whatever caused the universe to exist must have had the ability of agent causation (all things – except for something a person wills or intends – are all effects of past causes and effects. But the first thing to exist – the prime reality – must be a personal agent that can will or intend something freely. An impersonal force is not an intelligent or personal agent. Also, in being undifferentiated, it really becomes something without attributes. But that’s incoherent, because if we could say that it exists, which is a differentiation, it would have an attribute.

So it fails the logical test because an impersonal and undifferentiated force by definition cannot have the ability of agent causation and it must have some attributes in order to at least exist.

Now, most monistic views posit that the universe is eternal. These views fail the test of empirical adequacy.

Note: there are some religions which are in general monistic that do have theistic offshoots. So this only applies to those purely monistic views.

THEISM: Theism, which posits a being which exists outside of our space-time reality, who is a personal and intelligent agent (quite the opposite of monism in this sense), created the universe.

Does it past the logical consistency test? It does, there is nothing incoherent in the concept. The requirements of this being needing to be a personal and intelligent agent are met. This being is eternal, and would have existed outside of time “before” the creation of the universe, and therefore it isn’t infinite in it’s past time, because it was not in time before the universe existed.

And, of course, this view says that the universe is finite in past time which meets the criteria of empirical adequacy.

SUMMARY

After a very quick look at the this subject we may conclude that theism passes this question, whereas atheism and monism fail both tests. Only theism posits a being outside of time and space which has the capability of agent causation.

For a more complete argument which outlines the need for the first cause to be a personal, intelligent, immaterial, and non-spatial being, I highly suggest William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological argument. (1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause; 2. The universe began to exist; 3. Therefore the universe has a cause)

Next time around we’ll see what the question of meaning has to tell us!

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