Can A God Have Created The Universe?

Otishpote
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Can A God Have Created The Universe?
Sun through trees at Seminary Hill In Centralia, WA.   Photo by me.

Many people who believe in God often assert that the mere existence of the universe is evidence that there must have been a god to cause it. For example, Ray Comfort, in his recent debate with the Rational Response Squad on ABC, said that just like a painting requires a painter, creation requires a creator. I would like to point out a few philosophical problems with that line of reasoning.

The most common answer from atheists is to ask in return, "Then what caused God?" This is a serious point, and theists tend to duck it rather than actually answer it. Anyway, the issue is that if the theist finds it legitimate to assume that God is eternal and uncaused, should it not be just as philosophically legitimate to consider the possibility of the universe itself having always existed and being uncaused? To make an exception for God, but not the universe, is just special pleading. One doesn't commonly encounter any considerations even being brought forth in attempt to justify it.

Another problem is that the theists claim that there must be a "first cause" establishes nothing about what that first cause is. It not sufficient to provide support for the doctrines and practices of any faith. Even if one did accept the need for a creator, that doesn't imply that the creator is all-knowing or all-powerful, or that it is good and not malicious, that it is honest and not a liar, or even that it is consistent in its own thoughts and actions. It doesn't even imply that God is a personal being with thoughts and feelings. It doesn't imply that the Bible was inspired by God, or that God had any further influence on human history. In the early centuries of Christianity, there actually was a large number of Christians who believed that the Old Testament God was an imposter. They cited passages from the Old Testament, to show occasions when God was ignorant, lacking in power, or acted cruelly. They believed Christ appeared to rescue people from the false god of the Jews and return people to the true Holy Spirit.

But anyway I've digressed. Now, I want to restart and address the issue of God and creation from a completely different perspective. For the sake of starting my argument, let's take it for granted that the existence of a god is even possible and let us assume that a god did create a universe. That still gives us insufficient reason to assume that our universe is the only one thus created. God could have created many. But it gets worse, for we have no way to even be sure that the universe God created is really our universe. I'll try my best to explain further what I mean by that.

When God was thinking about which universe to create, one would assume that God considered all the possible choices. God could have alternatively made the earth twice as large or shaped as a cube, it could have chosen a universe where humans would have green skin or three eyes, it could have chosen to make our space four dimensional rather than three. There are infinitely many other ways it could have chosen to make the universe different. Anyway, the idea is that God considered all possible universes and picked one he wanted and performed some magic trick to make that possible universe be the actual universe. I expect most theists would accept this. It is inherent for example in Leibniz's statement that God created "the best of all possible worlds.", or in Aquinas's claim that God didn't have to pick the best one.

One major issue for philosophers is in determining what sort of magic the creation process would need to entail. Obviously it is not a reasonable answer to say the God sprinkled magic pixie dust on a possible universe and it suddenly became a real one. But would sort of process would be reasonable? What actually is it that God would have had to do? Saying that God spoke the universe into existence can't be more than a metaphor; and that just changes the question for what action did God have on the possible universe to what action did God's speech have on the possible universe. The real question is: what if anything does it mean for a possible universe to become actual? This is a serious question that theists never seem to answer, yet it is essential if their claim that God is necessary for the universe is to be justified. If the universe, after being made real, is in any way (any way at all, however minor) different from what it was when it was merely a possible universe - that is another serious philosophical problem. For then, it was not really THAT particular possible universe that God selected, but a slightly different one, which itself could not have been picked unless it was a possible choice. Thus, it is philosophically impossible to have any essential difference between a merely possible universe and an actual one - they must in essence be the same variety of thing. The only escape I have found from this dilemma is to realize that the whole concept of a universe being picked to be real is fundamentally flawed. I will try to explain the only solution I know for the problem, but my solution ends up entirely eliminating any role for God.

Back to these alternative universes that God could have picked from. Some may be lifeless, others might have different versions of what could be called people living in them, with difference experiences, thoughts and feelings. Some examples are that sailing ships might have difficulty navigating a cubical earth. People with green skin might be able to hide better in tall grass. I am sure most theists would like to think that God considered the welfare and potential feelings of these alternative people before deciding against making them and their universe "real", and picking our universe instead.

But then we have an infinite variety of alternative people existing just within God's thoughts. But in a significant way, the mere fact that God considered them as possibilities would give them a mode of existence in the mind of God. God can not prevent them from existing in this manner once he makes the slightest consideration of them. Yet the issue is this: Most of those people must still feel totally real to themselves. They still apply the logic of Descartes, saying "I think therefore, I am," and come to the conclusion that they really do exist. It is in their very nature to do so, since they are just alternative versions of us.

So how it that we are in the habit of denying that they exist? It is only from OUR PERSPECTIVE that they are not actual. FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE the tables are turned: they are actual and we are not. So we are in the same boat they are in. How can we be sure our universe is even one that God picked to create? We simply can't. How are we justified in saying that we are actual and they are not? Only by revisiting the definitions of such terms.

The philosopher David Lewis explained it as follows. "Actual" is an indexical term. An indexical term changes its referent depending on who uses it. Just like "here" means a different place when spoken by different people in different places, and "now" meant a different time when I said it yesterday then when I am writing it now. To say this is the actual universe just means that this is the universe I find myself in. For people in an alternative universe, "actual" refers to the universe they finds themselves in. According to David Lewis, all other possible universes necessarily exist, there is simply no way around it. They exist within the realm of logical possibilities. Our universe is just one of those infinitely many. We call our universe actual only because it is the only one we have direct physical access to. We can only think about the others using our imagination.

All the references to God that I've made in getting to this point turn out to be unnecessary. I just used such references to soften the explanation. The mere fact that alternative universes exist as logically consistent possibilities is all that we need consider here. We don't need to have any god thinking about them. It is not that they exist because they exist in the mind of God, they simply are. And if that is so, then not only is a god unnecessary to make the infinitude of universes exist - God would find himself powerless to stop them from existing.


Chaoslord2004
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Otishpote wrote: Ray

Otishpote wrote:
Ray Comfort, in his recent debate with the Rational Response Squad on ABC, said that just like a painting requires a painter, creation requires a creator.

The way this is worded, simply begs the question.  For to simply assert that the universe was "created" is percisely the thing in question.  The design argument does bring up an important issue.  The issue is, how can we know when something probably was created by an intellegent being?  For example, take the watch example.  The argument sucks, but the issue of when it is justified to assert intellegent design is important.

In order to refute the argument from design, we need to look at the structure of the argument.  In essence, it is an argument from analogy.  Thus, it will ONLY work, if the analogy is sufficiently strong.  The problem is, it is not.  If we look at the world, we can infer alot of things besides design, that would directly conflict with intellegent design.  I will go into this later if you desire. 

 

Otishpote wrote:
Another problem is that the theists claim that there must be a "first cause" establishes nothing about what that first cause is.

Exactly.  One cannot either deduce or abduce any properties about this "cause"

 

Otishpote wrote:
Saying that God spoke the universe into existence can't be more than a metaphor

Literally any talk of God will rely upon material concepts within our world.  There is no other way to even concieve of such a being, using purely abstract terms.  We have no connection with the "immaterial world" if it exists.  Hence, all of our understandings of it, will come from metaphors and analogies burrowed from the physical world.  This is part of the reason understanding the infinite is so difficult...or even mathematics. (I will post a paper on this topic later).

By saying God is a being outside of space and time...one is making any talk of God, meaningless.  The only way to make this talk, even a bit coherent, is to make physical world analogies.  Such as, 'God spoke.'  How can God speak, if that very act requires time?  This must be an analogy...but for what?  All these terms are very fuzzy and probably incoherent.

 

Otishpote wrote:
what if anything does it mean for a possible universe to become actual?

This is interesting.  This is a problem encountered when studing modality.  Presumably, a possible universe becomes actual when it exists.  This is strange, however...and David Lewis would argue against this.  I really have no good answer for ya.

 

Otishpote wrote:
Thus, it is philosophically impossible to have any essential difference between a merely possible universe and an actual one - they must in essence be the same variety of thing. The only escape I have found from this dilemma is to realize that the whole concept

It depends upon ones theory of modality.  If your David Lewis, then this is true.  As you note, given his theory of possible worlds, all possible world exist.  Hence, saying "actual" is merely an indexical such as "he" or "I."  It is relative to context.

This is strange.  His theory entails wacky things.  This doesn't mean its false...hell, Stephen Hawkings universe is pretty fucking strange, but it is probably true.  If all possible worlds exist, this means there actually exists a world where the Lord of The Rings movies are being played out.  Now, what is even stranger, is that Lewis denies that any of these world are accessible from our world.  Meaning, we cannot travel to them.  Why, one might ask Mr. Lewis, is this the case?  These worlds are material worlds, right?  Why can't we travel to them?

Most people thing of possible worlds in terms of set theory.  A possible world is simply a complete set of propositions describing that world.  Ok, but what makes it possible?  I can describe contradictory worlds...this this mean its possible?  no...so what makes it possible?  

These are all very interesting issues.  Perhaps thats because Modal Logic and Modality are the most interesting part of philosophy in my eyes.  The more you ponder "possibility" and "necessity" it all becomes very strange. 

 

Otishpote wrote:
But then we have an infinite variety of alternative people existing just within God's thoughts. But in a significant way, the mere fact that God considered them as possibilities would give them a mode of existence in the mind of God. God can not prevent them from existing in this manner once he makes the slightest consideration of them.

I don't see the problem.  I can consider a unicorn...it exists in my mind, so what?

 

Otishpote wrote:
Yet the issue is this: Most of those people must still feel totally real to themselves. They still apply the logic of Descartes, saying "I think therefore, I am," and come to the conclusion that they really do exist. It is in their very nature to do so, since they are just alternative versions of us.

This is interesting.  Let me ponder this.

 

Otishpote wrote:
The philosopher David Lewis explained it as follows. "Actual" is an indexical term. An indexical term changes its referent depending on who uses it. Just like "here" means a different place when spoken by different people in different places, and "now" meant a different time when I said it yesterday then when I am writing it now.

Reminds me of the space-time theory of time.  Time, is like space.  It consists of points.  Hence, someone who says "now" in the 1640's just as true someone who says "now" at this present moment.  Both are correct, because "now" is a term relevant...its just like if someone says "I live here" in boston and another says "I live here in Chicago."  Both can be correct...because the "here" is relative to a point...same with time.

I happen to subscribe to this theory of time, personally.  Partially because of Hawking and Einstein, and also for metaphysical reasons.

 

Good posts, man!  Keep posting. 

 

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


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Chaoslord2004 wrote:I

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

I don't see the problem. I can consider a unicorn...it exists in my mind, so what?

I can think of a unicorn too. But mine turned out to be a very stupid one. See, my imaginary unicorn thinks of itself as real. Even worse, she thinks I am imaginary. Stupid creature. Why can't she just accept that OUR universe is the only actual one? Just because she thinks, just because she feels the ground beneath her feet, doesn't mean she actually exists; Sheesh, I just imagined the darned beast!  But she refuses to listen to any of this, this particular imaginary unicorn simply can't conceive of herself not being real. She can not get in her head that she was just made up.

And then she reminds us that we are in the same position as her. If we have any justification whatsoever, in any form, for asserting that we exist - then in all fairness she should be allowed to apply the same argument.