Wednesday, April 05, 2006

An Atheist asking for a Miracle:

I don't know how deep I'm willing to get into this debating God thing. As Richard Posner aptly put it: "You cannot convince a religious person that there is no God, because he does not share your premises, for example that only science delivers truths. There is no fruitful debating of God’s existence."

And vice versa.

However, I've detected in Sandefur's response an example of an atheist asking for a first miracle, which I don't think merits granting. He writes:

As to the persistence of time, I beg to differ. My understanding of the “big bang”—limited as it certainly is—is that time itself is a consequence of this incident, and therefore there is no sense in the question “What came before?” There simply is no before, because the concept of before has no referent except in the universe created through the big bang.

So he asks us to accept that time/space/matter/energy just appeared out of nothing that came before and that the big bang created the universe. This is asking for a miracle.

Of course, I've argued with atheists who say that the big bang didn't create the universe and that matter and energy and the time and space that would go with it, always existed -- the big bang was just a radical rearrangement of all this. See the theory of the expanding and contracting universe.


Anonymous said...

>>>"You cannot convince a religious person that there is no God, because he does not share your premises, for example that only science delivers truths. There is no fruitful debating of God’s existence."

And vice versa.<<<

Accepting the religious premise means that you can receive truth from what? Revelation? If we cannot test the hypothesis because God is, buy It's nature, outside the bounds of our universe then it appears that for the religious, truth comes from simple assertion. God exists because I say so. This is truth? If God doesn't talk to me but It talks to my neighbor, then I can cite this as a source of truth? How about the homeless guy babbling on the street corner? Truth? Well, yeah, if he's right... but how can anyone know he's right? Assume that everything that people tell you about God (and the world for that matter) is true? What about all the contradictions? This doesn't seen to be workable.

As far as other sources of truth, I'm a bit at a loss. I'm curious where one can find truth (and I should specify universal truths as opposed to subjective personal truths) other than in the repeatable, predictive nature of the scientific method. I'm certainly eager to hear other ways.

It appears as though the focus on what was before the Big Bang is coloring the outlook here. Perhaps the universe is like a bubble in water. The stuff of the bubble (gas) is in the water before the bubble forms. The bubble has a clear beginning and a time when it did not exist but it doesn't come from nowhere, it comes from within the water. If this analogy is valid, you could despense with the need for God as the creator of the universe.... I guess the next question will be about the creator of the fluid that these universe bubles float in or where the energy comes from to cause them to form. The main point is that you could find a rational explanation that wouldn't necessarily break the law of conservation of mass/energy. One that is observable in a glass of water.

Maybe it's bubbles all the way down. ; )

Mark said...


Conservation of energy (mass) is only a principle if time translational invariance is a feature of your physical laws. If time has boundaries, then energy conservation is not preserved.

Also, the expanding/contracting big-bounce theories are not in vogue right now, I'm pretty sure those theories don't fit so well with inflation which is. Spacetime doesn't exist "before" the big bang, that is a misunderstanding of manifolds. The 10-dimensions (or so) of space time are not embedded in anything, which is what you are doing implicitly by implying that dimensionality and time exist in the absence of matter (and time). I'd recommend Lisa Randall's "Warped Passages" for a look at where modern physics has brought us in the last decades since the big bang theory came out.

Finally, the idea of "first cause" is not explictly a religious idea, it's been claimed by a number of philosophers as well. You could (I think) take Augustine as proposing the ansatz that the Platonic Ideal of Good and the First Cause were one and the same thing, i.e., God. Neither of those assumptions (that is an Ideal of Good or First Cause) are specifically what I would term religion but can still be regarded quite philosophical.