Can anything come from that which is not?
This page does not score as well as it could in the Flesch Reading Ease Test. I hope you will persevere as the fundamental idea contained in the heading above is one that every human being needs to think about.
One of the most fundamental questions, if not the most fundamental question, that we face as human beings is the existence of God or how did the universe, how did life come into being?
To reflect upon this question without bias, we need to clear our minds, our understanding of all the knowledge that we have, both personally and historically, as to the nature of God. This includes all revelatory knowledge and all theological and philosophical understanding we have. We need to free our minds of any definitions of who God is or what God is and just leave the word God as an empty category, concept or idea, for the moment, that we will then explore whether this word can be applied in any way to life or in our human experience. The importance of doing this is that most people ‘shadowbox’ with concepts that they have of God which are often untrue or only partially so. Having shadowboxed with a false concept of God, they then say that God does not exist. For example, a person might believe that God is judgemental or in the case of Richard Dawkins and the God of the Old Testament, vindictive. Because both these concepts are not necessarily true, the person then rejects God. God might be judgemental but God judges us in love. (See more later on eternal damnation) God might appear vindictive but in the case of the Old Testament, this is better explained in terms of how the people of Israel experienced God and the dynamic of the journey to come to truly know God.
In freeing our minds, we need to give particular emphasis to the influence of modern philosophy. It is popular, in current philosophical circles, to argue that God does not exist and to submit the traditional proofs for the existence of God to varied logical analysis. This particularly includes the infinite regress, based on causation where we have E, which is an entity, group or totality of entities, in our experience. We see that E is caused by D, which is caused by C, which is caused by B, which is caused by A. A for the moment being the first term in the chain of causation. The criticism of an infinite regress argues that there can be no beginning entity A, but rather the process goes on indefinitely. It is interesting to note in the material universe that eventually the chain of causation could come back to a final particle which is no longer divisible into any other particle. There are many forms of the infinite regress in considering the proofs for God’s existence. Part of exploring our initial question, is to consider whether all attempts to go back to the beginning involve an infinite regress or whether there is a final particle or entity.
In the history of Western philosophy, particularly in the work of Emanuel Kant, philosophers have tried to explore whether there are some propositions that are apriori true, that is true independent of experience where the predicate is necessarily contained in the subject. Kant argued that the propositions of mathematics are possibly the only propositions that fall into this category. Personally, I have always doubted whether anything can be true independent of experience. Without going into this area of philosophy in any further detail for the moment, we might consider whether there are any statements that we might consider to be purely logical and is logic the purest source of knowledge for us, or are there other ways of knowing, that are possibly more significant and that God is known in one of these ways rather than by logic or as well as by logic?
Leaving aside these questions of whether there are other ways to know God, let us consider the existence of God logically.
A simple question to use in reflecting upon our initial proposition:
Can anything come out of that which is not? (That which does not exist)
Can anything exist from that which is not? (That which does not exist)
Can anything come into being from that which is not? (That which does not exist)
There are also other ways of expressing this statement but they easily become too complex. For example: can anything come out of nothing? The word ‘nothing’ is philosophically complex. Consider, ‘no-thing’. No-thing is not necessarily absolutely nothing.
If, we answer our initial proposition, in the negative and I would argue that there is no other logical alternative but to answer it in the negative then the only possibility for the life that we experience ourselves in now is that it is dependent upon an eternally existing reality, which has always existed. In other words, creation is impossible without there being something that is eternal otherwise nothing could ever be.
For the moment that is all we know that this reality is eternal or has always existed or has never not existed and it is this reality that we use the word ‘God’ for. In using this name we assume, for the moment, no further understanding as to what God might be like or the nature of God.
It is interesting that some scientists can talk about theories of creation and how the universe came to be, without dealing with this ultimate question. It seems that they are prepared to assume the pre-existence of the ingredients for ‘the Big Bang’ without addressing the question of where those ingredients came from. As the theoretical physicist, Paul Davis argued that science seems to assume that we can know the part without knowing the whole that it is a part of. It is like trying to fully describe a piston, without describing the engine that is a part of.
Other scientists, for example such as Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox, seem quite satisfied with the position that this whole universe and particularly life as we know it, happened by chance. Richard Dawkins, in his book ‘the God delusion’, says that his position is that it is highly unlikely that there is a God. He rates himself as 6 out of 7, where 7 is absolute disbelief. Having said that he argues as if his disbelief is absolute. If the proposition above is not totally self-evident as a logical proposition, then we could at lease rate it as 2 out of 7, where 1 is absolute proof of God’s existence.
Consequently, although effective in so many ways, a scientific method without acknowledging the existence of the eternal being that we call God, is fundamentally deficient. Science should be the study of how we experience God in the various particulars of existence that we look at and explore.
This leads us to seeing the whole of life as an exploration of and providing insights into, the nature of God.
Some general modifications 28/1/15
The most important being para 3.
Some minor bug fixes, using the terminology of software, 7/7 /2015
Some further minor bug fixes, 17/03/2016
See Blog reflection on Edward Krauss’ book ‘a Universe from Nothing’