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William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll debate God and Cosmology

GodAndCosmology

If you missed the livestream of this year’s Greer Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum on Faith and Culture, Tactical Faith have begun to make the videos from the event available.

The main debate, titled ‘God and Cosmology: The Existence of God in Light of Modern Cosmology,’ was between Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and atheist physicist Sean Carroll.  The forum also featured a second day of lectures by Tim Maudlin and Alex Rosenberg (arguing in favor of Carroll’s side of the debate) and Robin Collins and James Sinclair (for Craig) addressing issues brought up in the debate.

Here’s the final session with summary remarks and Q&A with all the speakers.

I’ll update the post when more videos go online.

For commentary on the Craig/Carroll debate, check out Wintery Knight and Randy Everist’s reviews.

 

Edward Feser reviews A Universe From Nothing

Lawrence-Krauss2

“The bulk of the book is devoted to exploring how the energy present in otherwise empty space, together with the laws of physics, might have given rise to the universe as it exists today. This is at first treated as if it were highly relevant to the question of how the universe might have come from nothing” until Krauss acknowledges toward the end of the book that energy, space, and the laws of physics don’t really count as “nothing” after all. Then it is proposed that the laws of physics alone might do the trick” though these too, as he implicitly allows, don’t really count as “nothing” either.

His final proposal is that “there may be no fundamental theory at all” but just layer upon layer of laws of physics, which we can probe until we get bored. But this is no explanation of the universe at all. In particular, it is nowhere close to what Krauss promised his reader” an explanation of how the universe arose from nothing ” since an endless series of “layers” of laws of physics is hardly “nothing.” His book is like a pamphlet titled How to Make a Million Dollars in One Week that turns out to be a counterfeiter’s manual.”

Read the whole thing here.

HT: Chris Reese

Professor Edgar Andrews reviews The Grand Design

The following review has been kindly provided to Thinking Matters by Edgar Andrews, Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London and author of the highly recommended Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything (read our review here). Professor Andrews is an international expert on the science of large molecules and has published well over 100 scientific research papers and books. For a good introduction to his work, listen to Brian Auten’s interview with him at Apologetics315.

The Grand Design?

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking sold over nine million copies of his book A Brief History of Time. Now, 22 years later, he has co-authored The Grand Design which immediately hit the No.1 spot in the New York Times best-seller list. But the sequel is so inferior to the prequel in intellectual quality that a reviewer in The Times Saturday Review (11 September 2010) writes: ‘It reads like a stretched magazine article … there is too much padding and too much recycling of long-stale material… I doubt whether The Grand Design would have been published if Hawking’s name were not on the cover’.

So why is the new book a runaway best-seller? Because it claims that science makes God redundant. Let’s take a closer look at the claims advanced in The Grand Design.

Philosophical skulduggery

The introduction asserts that ‘Philosophy is dead’ (p.5) and science alone can provide ‘New answers to the ultimate questions of life’ (the book’s hubristic sub-title). But the authors then produce their own brand of humanistic philosophy, christen it ‘science’ and base their book upon it.

They say; ‘this book is rooted in the concept of scientific determinism which implies … that there are no miracles, or exceptions to the laws of nature’. But ‘scientific determinism’ is simply the philosophical assumption that the laws control all events. I argue precisely the opposite in chapter 11 of my own book Who made God? (WMG in further references).

Again, in chapter 3, They maintain that ‘reality’ is a construct of our minds — implying that there is no such thing as objective reality (Irish philosopher Bishop Berkeley had the same idea in 1710 but he wasn’t widely believed). They conclude that ‘there is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality’ and propose what they call ‘model dependent realism’ as a ‘frame-work with which to interpret modern science’ (pp. 42-43). Clearly, an interpretive framework for science cannot be science but belongs in a different category altogether, namely, philosophy.

Since the mental models we construct ‘are the only reality we can know … It follows then that a well-constructed model creates a reality of its own’ (p.172). The problem with this, of course, is that it undermines the very concept of reality. Hawking’s ‘reality’ excludes God while my ‘reality’ majors upon God. These two ‘realities’ are mutually exclusive but both (according to Hawking) are equally ‘real’. This is postmodernism by the back door and it is wholly inimical to science, which depends on there being a genuine reality to investigate.

Determinism

 

The authors also embrace another philosophy, namely, scientific determinism. ‘Though we feel we can choose what we do, our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets’ (pp.31-32). So we are mindless automatons and everything we do or think is predetermined.

The reality is, of course, that biological processes are overwhelmingly ‘governed’ not by physics and chemistry but by structured information, stored on DNA and expressed through the genetic code. It is information which controls the physics and chemistry of the living cell, not the other way round.

Furthermore, if our minds are simply by-products of molecular processes in the brain, then all our thoughts are meaningless including the authors’ own theories. Thinking atheists such as Bertrand Russell and J. B. S. Haldane long ago recognised and admitted this dilemma explicitly (WMG chapter 16) but Hawking and Mlodinow seem oblivious to it.

Chapter 4 is devoted to explaining the ‘many histories’ formulation of quantum theory proposed by Richard Feynman. This is well done except that by ignoring other formulations of quantum theory the authors give the false impression that Feynman’s is the only valid approach. This is tendentious because they need Feynman’s idea as a springboard for their own multiverse hypothesis. To admit that ‘many histories’ is just one of several equally valid formulations of quantum mechanics would weaken their argument considerably.

Mighty M-theory

Chapter 5 surveys the development of physics during the past 200 years, including general relativity (which describes the large-scale behaviour of the universe) and quantum mechanics (which describes its microscopic behaviour). Although containing nothing new, this is by far the best part of this book.

The chapter concludes, however, with comments on M-theory that rang alarm bells (p.118). In the book’s opening chapter, M-theory is no more than ‘a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists’, and is ‘not a theory in the usual sense’ but ‘may offer answers to the question of creation’. Physicist Lee Smolin is doubtful: ‘… we still do not know what M-theory is, or whether there is any theory deserving of the name’ (The Trouble with Physics, Allen Lane 2007, p.146). Indeed, on p.117 the authors themselves admit that ‘people are still trying to decipher the nature of M-theory, but that may not be possible’.

But suddenly on p.118 this intractable mathematical model is somehow transformed into a theory so powerful that its laws are ‘more fundamental’ than the laws of nature and ‘allow’ for ‘different universes with different apparent laws’. This is a huge leap of atheistic faith.

Witches brew

The final three chapters rapidly descend into a witches brew of speculation and misinformation, confusingly blended with normal science. It certainly gave me a mental hangover — and I am no stranger to the territory. It is difficult to discern where science ends and speculation begins, but the key reasoning seem to be as follows.

1. The ‘big bang’ model predicts that the universe began life as such a tiny object that quantum theory must be applied to its origin (p.131). But hold on a moment! Quantum theory has only been validated under normal conditions of space, time, pressure, temperature and so on. We cannot know whether it applies to the supposed conditions at the origin of the universe, when space was intensely warped, time was at best fuzzy, and the pressure and temperature both approached infinity. What we do know is that massive objects do not exhibit quantum behaviour. No one can be sure that a new-born universe would obey quantum theory as we know it.

2.  ‘In the early universe all four dimension [of space-time] behave like space’ allowing us to ‘get rid of the problem of time having a beginning’ (pp.134-135). But if time and space were equivalent, and time did not begin, then space didn’t begin either! The universe was still-born. In fact the authors are appealing to the ‘no-boundary’ model described by Hawking 22 years ago in A Brief History of Time but are economical with the truth. The earlier book makes it clear that the model is valid only in imaginary time, not in real time (see WMG p.121). But here this caveat vanishes and imaginary time is misrepresented as real time.

The narrative then descends into farce. They claim that ‘the realisation that time behaves like space … means that the beginning of the universe was governed by the laws of science and doesn’t need to be set in motion by some god’ (p.135). So apparently the universe did ‘begin’ after all, but not in time. Confused? Me too.

3. Picturing the early universe as a quantum particle (something they themselves describe as ‘tricky’) the authors consider how it might evolve from point (state) A to point (state) B by applying Feynman’s sum-over-histories method thus:

‘[Since we are considering the beginning of the universe] there is no point A, so we add up all the histories that satisfy the no-boundary condition and end at the universe we observe today. In this view the universe appears spontaneously, starting off in every possible way. Most of these correspond to other universes.’

But by saying that point A does not exist they assume that the universe springs into existence somewhere between nothing (point A) and the present universe (point B). This tells us nothing about how or why the universe began; simply that it did begin. We knew that already.

4. Finally, p.180 does offer an explanation of spontaneous creation. The conservation of energy means that universes can only be created from nothing if their net energy is zero, with negative gravitational energy balancing out the positive energy of matter and radiation. This necessitates that a law of gravity must exist. Because a law of gravity exists it must and will of itself create universes out of nothing (no reasoning given).

So gravity is God. Unfortunately the authors have no time to tell us who created gravity (earlier they rule out God because no one could explain who created him). Nor can they tell us why matter and gravity should pop out of nothing, except to argue that ‘nothing’ undergoes quantum fluctuations. However, this requires that (like gravity) the laws of quantum mechanics pre-existed the universe and that ‘nothing’ possesses the properties of normal space, which is part of the created order and cannot be its antecedent.

A grand design? Only in the sense that this book is grandly designed to bamboozle the unwary and cloak atheistic philosophy in the garb of science. Fortunately, the clothes don’t fit.

Did quantum fluctuations create the universe?

Given the discussion raised by Stephen Hawking’s latest book, some of our readers might find this reply, posted by Professor Edgar Andrews on an Amazon.co.uk discussion thread, useful:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”none” text_align=”left”]

“Nobody made evolution. It arises as a natural and inescapable consequence of the laws of nature in the universe in which we find ourselves, which themselves are a natural and inescapable consequence of the completely random quantum fluctuation which caused the big bang, at which point the “laws” of causality break down so it is meaningless to enquire who or what caused that.”

“But that really doesn’t wash, does it? In the same breath you say the big bang was caused by quantum fluctuations and then claim that it is meaningless to enquire what caused the big bang. That may be post-modernism but it certainly isn’t logic (or physics for that matter). But there are deeper fallacies with your explanations, as follows:

1) The laws of nature, you say, are the “inescapable consequences” of “completely random quantum fluctuations”. By what logic can inescapable consequences arise from random events? Random events can only lead to contingent consequences but to be “inescapable” the consequences cannot be contingent but must be determinate (necessary).

2) For the laws of nature to be a “consequence” of anything, the principle of causality must operate. Without causality there can be neither causes nor consequences. But you then tell us that back beyond the big bang the laws of causality break down. You really cannot have it both ways.

3) You say the big bang was “caused” by “random quantum fluctuations”. Quite apart from reinforcing my last point by invoking causality prior to the existence of the cosmos, you have to answer a different question … fluctuations in what? Before the big bang there existed neither matter, energy, space nor time, so by definition there could be no fluctuations in any of these entities. (If you claim there was something of a material nature “there” before the big bang, we are no longer talking about the ultimate origin of the universe).

3) Next comes another question. Are not quantum fluctuations themselves a manifestation of natural law (e.g. the laws of quantum mechanics)? How then could quantum fluctuations be the ultimate cause of natural law as you claim? Did the laws governing quantum fluctuation invent themselves? Not even Stephen Hawking believes that.”[/pk_box]

Edgar Andrews is the Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London and author of the excellent book, Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything. Who Made God? is available from Amazon and New Zealand bookstores (Grace & Truth Publications has copies available for $24 NZD).

Closer to Truth Interviews William Lane Craig

Robert Lawrence Kuhn, host of the show Closer to Truth, interviews Christian philosopher William Lane Craig about philosophical theology, cosmology, and other issues. Unfortunately the site doesn’t allow it’s videos to be embedded, but here are the links:

Arguing God from First Cause?

Can God Change?

Considering God’s Existence?

Did God Create From Nothing? (Part 1 of 3)

Did God Create From Nothing? (Part 2 of 3)

Did God Create From Nothing? (Part 3 of 3)

Did God Create Multiple Universes?

Did God Create Time?

How Could God Know the Future? (Part 1)

How Could God Know the Future? (Part 2)

How Free is God?

How is God the Creator? (Part 1 of 2)

How is God the Creator? (Part 2 of 2)

Is God All Knowing?

Is God Temporal or Timeless? (Part 1 of 2)

Is God Temporal or Timeless? (Part 2 of 2)

The site also has a useful summary of some of Craig’s scholarly contributions to the debates about the existence and nature of God here.

The Beginning of the Universe

(Cross-posted at Rational Thoughts)

I’m currently working on a nine-part series on the kalam cosmological argument and I thought it would be nice to post this particular entry here.

Defenders of the KCA muster several different arguments in support of the premise that the universe began to exist.  These arguments are both philosophical and scientific in nature.  Arguments under the former category involve showing that the existence of an actually infinite number of things is metaphysically impossible. If the universe never began to exist, then its past duration would be actually infinite. Since actual infinities cannot exist, then the past duration of the universe must have been finite, implying that the universe must have begun to exist. Even if one grants that it is possible for an actual infinite to exist, it still cannot be formed by successive addition, and henceforth the past duration of the universe must still be finite. From a scientific perspective, the beginning of the universe is strongly supported by modern big bang cosmology. The proponent of the KCA thus finds himself comfortably seated in the midst of mainstream cosmology. Combined, these two reasons lend strong support to the truth of the second premise.

The Impossibility of Actual Infinities

It’s helpful to distinguish between actual and potential infinities.  Potential infinities are sets that are constantly increasing toward infinity as a limit, but never attain infinite status. A more accurate description would be to say that their members are indefinite. An actual infinite, by contrast, is a set x that contains a subset x’ that is equivalent to x.  That is, they are denumerable.  Phrased in layman’s terms, a set is actually infinite if a part of the set is as big as the whole set.  A potentially infinite set would thus be a set in which a part is less than the whole.  “The crucial difference between an infinite set and an indefinite collection would be that the former is conceived as a determinate whole actually possessing an infinite number of members, while the latter never actually attains infinity, although it increases perpetually. We have, then, three types of collection that we must keep conceptually distinct: finite, infinite, and indefinite. [1]  Because it leads to contradictions and absurdities, an actually infinite set cannot exist in reality.

There are several examples which illustrate the absurdity of the existence of an actually infinite number of things, the most famous of which is known as Hilbert’s paradox of the grand hotel. For the sake of clarity, however, I’ll use a simple example used by Craig:

Imagine I had an infinite number of marbles in my possession, and that I wanted to give you some.  In fact, suppose I wanted to give you an infinite number of marbles.  In that case I would have zero marbles left for myself.

However, another way to do it would be to give you all of the odd numbered marbles.  Then I would still have an infinite left over for myself, and you would have an infinite too.  You’d have just as many as I would — and, in fact, each of us would have just as many as I originally had before we divided into odd and even!  Or another approach would be for me to give you all the marbles numbered four and higher.  That way, you would have an infinite of marbles, but I would have only three marbles left.

What these illustrates demonstrate is that the notion of an actual infinite number of things leads to contradictory results.  In my first case in which I gave you all the marbles, infinity minus infinity is zero, in the second case in which I gave you all the odd-numbered marbles, infinity minus infinity is infinity; and in the third case in which I gave you all the marbles numbered four and greater, infinity minus infinity is three.  In each case, we have subtracted the identical number from the identical number, but we have come up with non-identical results. [2]

The point of this example is that arithmetical operations with actually infinite quantities yield contradictory answers, and thus it is metaphysically impossible for actual infinites to exist.  The notion of an actually infinite set is purely conceptual and has no relation to reality. It should be noted here that while one is able to work with actual infinities in set theory and calculus, they existence in re is metaphysically impossible.  Their existence is only permitted in mathematics because mathematical operations involving infinite quantities are prohibited. In reality, however, there is nothing stopping someone from adding or subtracting from an infinite quantity of marbles.

Suppose however, that actual infinities could exist in reality. Would this serve as a defeater for the second premise? It seems not, for even if actual infinities could exist in reality, they could not be formed by successive addition nor could they be navigated successfully.  It is impossible to form an actually infinite quantity by successive addition, as one can always add another number to what they have counted.  No matter how many times one adds a number to a finite quantity, one will never yield an infinite quantity.

Even if actual infinities were possible, it is unclear that they could be traversed.  Consider Bertrand Russell’s example of Tristram Shandy, who writes his autobiography at such a slow pace that it takes him a whole year to write about a single day.  If Shandy had been writing for eternity past, then he would be infinitely far behind. [3] Since it is impossible to traverse an actually infinite past, then we should not have arrived at this point.  But since we have, we can conclude that the past duration of the universe was finite.

Critics have sometimes compared the impossibility of forming an actual infinite to Zeno’s paradoxes of motion, which, though tricky and stubborn, are obviously wrongheaded.  But these comparisons are not accurate for several reasons:  First, the distances traversed in an infinite past are actual and equal, as opposed to being potential and unequal in Zeno’s paradoxes.  Second, the distances traversed in Zeno’s paradoxes sum to a finite distance, whereas the distances traversed in an infinite paste sum to an infinite distance.  Finally, it begs the question by presupposing the distance traversed as being composed of an infinite amount of points.  Critics of Zeno held that the existence of the line itself is prior to any divisions that are made in it.  Moreover, in regards to an infinite past, divisions such as a halfway, a quarter of a way, and a third of the way are unintelligible because there is no beginning, unlike in Zeno’s paradoxes. [4]

Scientific Pointers to a Beginning of the Universe

Due to the heavy influence of Aristotelianism, scientists and philosophers from the medieval periods up until the early 1900’s firmly believed in the eternality of the universe.  The first indications that the universe was not eternal started to surface in 1917 with the advent of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Einstein himself was a believer in an eternal universe, and when he saw that his theory of general relativity did not permit such a model, he introduced a “fudge factor” into his equations to maintain an eternal universe.   By exploiting the shortcomings of Einstein’s model, the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman and the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre independently developed an expanding model of the universe.  Further evidence came in 1929, when astronomer Edwin Hubble confirmed the expanding universe predicted by the Friedman-Lemaitre model through his discovery of redshift.  The fact that the universe was expanding implied that in some point in the past, it was compacted together tightly, for if one reverses the expansion of the universe backwards in time, the universe becomes more and more dense until it reaches a state of infinite density.  This had the jolting conclusion that the universe, over 14 billion years ago, had once been compressed to a size of an infinitely dense point known as a singularity.  Since space and time themselves came into existence at this singularity, it served as a boundary for space-time, as there was no moment “before” the big bang.  Hence, the origin posited by the standard big bang model is that of an absolute origin ex nihilo.

This lent strong support to the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo. In fact, the bang theory, far from having atheistic implications, was actually criticized for being too religious when first proposed.

Further support came in 2001 with the advent of the BVG theorem.  Physicists Arvind Bord, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe in a state of cosmic expansion must have an absolute beginning point.

Scientific verification for the second premise also comes from the second law of thermodynamics, one of the most verified laws in science.  According to the second law, the entropy of a closed system tends to increase over time.  In other words, the amount of energy required to do work constantly decreases as closed systems tend toward equilibrium.  If one drops a small amount of food coloring into a cup of water, for example, the food coloring will diffuse evenly throughout the water.

Applied to the universe, the second law implies that it will eventually attain maximum entropy.  This is known as the heat death of the universe.   At that point, there will be no energy available to do work, and the universe will be locked in a state of changelessness.  If the universe were eternal, however, then it should have already attained maximum entropy.  But since it has not yet attained maximum entropy, then it follows that the universe must be finite in its past duration.  Picture a toy that has been wound up.  If an infinite amount of time had passed, then the toy should have wound down.  The fact that it is still running indicates that it was wound up a finite time ago.  On the basis of the second law of thermodynamics, we may also conclude that the universe began to exist.

Notes:

[1] — William Lane Craig and James D. Sinclair in William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (eds), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell: 2009) p.105
[2] — William Lane Craig, as interviewed by Lee Strobel in The Case for a Creator (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2004) p.103
[3] — For more on this, see Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2004)  p.213-216
[4] — Craig and Sinclair, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”, inTBCNT, pp. 119

An Atheistic Argument from the Big Bang

The Big Bang event may be one of the most important scientific discoveries about the origin of our universe. Observations by American astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1929 and the final discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964 confirmed predictions by Friedmann and Lemaître and convinced scientists of the expansion of the universe from a denser, hotter, primordial state. It was a turning point in the history of science. No longer was the universe thought to be a static, timeless, unchanging entity. The Friedmann-Lemaitre model gives the universe a backstory and more than that: a beginning. Physicist P. C. W. Davies explains: “most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.”

The idea of an expanding universe has not only revolutionized the field of science and been a unifying theme in cosmology but has had profound implications beyond those disciplines. According to the British astronomer Stephen Hawking, “If the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be”. But he admits, “so long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator”. This has been too uncomfortable a conclusion for some. Robert Jastrow, physicist and founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, comments:

“There is a kind of religion in science. . .This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning. . .as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implications – in science this is known as ‘refusing to speculate’ – or trivializing the origin of the world by calling it the Big Bang, as if the universe were a firecracker.

Consider the enormity of the problem. Science has proven that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks, what cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter and energy into the universe? …And science cannot answer those questions…The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation.” (God and the Astronomers, pps 113-15)

But while the fact that our universe both has a beginning and arose from nothing provides powerful evidence for a personal Creator (see Stuart’s post on the Kalam Cosmological Argument), Quentin Smith, philosophy professor at Western Michigan University has put forward the unique claim that the Big Bang is incompatible with God’s existence. In the book Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology, Smith sets out this argument:

1. If God exists and there is an earliest state of the universe, then God created that earliest state of the universe.

2. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly benevolent.

3. A universe with life is better than a universe that does not contain life.

4. Therefore, if God created the universe then the earliest state of the universe must either contain life or ensure that life will eventually emerge.

5. There is an earliest state of the universe and it is the Big Bang singularity.

6. The conditions of the earliest state of the universe (infinite temperature, infinite curvature, and infinite density) were hostile to life.

7. The Big Bang singularity is inherently unpredictable and lawless and consequently there is no guarantee that it will produce a universe where life can emerge.

8. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the earliest state of the universe will produce a universe where life can emerge.

9. Therefore, God could not have created the earliest state of the universe.

10, Therefore, God does not exist.

Does this argument succeed? There are several problems that are immediately apparent (for a full discussion read William Lane Craig’s response in that book), but two weaknesses are serious enough to undermine its conclusion:

Firstly, God is not obligated to create a universe that contains life. It does not follow from premise 2 and 3 that God must create a universe with life. God could indeed have a reason for creating a world with life. He may, in fact, freely choose to create a world because of the good He may want to bring about. But just because God possesses a reason for creating a universe, this does not impose a necessity on Him. Furthermore, the Christian theist will deny that in order for God’s goodness to be expressed, He must create a universe with life. Apart from creation, God is neither lonely nor in need of objects for his benevolence. Within the Trinity and the fellowship of three persons united in one nature, God’s benevolence is fully and perfectly expressed.

Secondly, God could guarantee life through His subsequent intervention. The assumption that God must pre-programme life-hospitable conditions into the initial stages of the universe is perhaps the most significant problem for this argument. Why must God embed this capacity for life into the universe from the very start? It is not at all illogical for God to causally direct the evolution of life through his subsequent providence and care. This is, in fact, quite consistent with the classical Christian view that God not only created the world but remains living and active within it (Matthew 6:26; Ps 147:8-9; Job 38:41, etc).  According to Smith, however, this would be “a sign of incompetent planing . . . The rational thing to do is to create some state that by its own lawful nature leads to a life-producing universe.” However, this is an arbitrary and anthropocentric constraint on God. Why think that God is incompetent because he does conform to our standards of efficiency? In his response to Quentin Smith, William Craig cites the American philosopher and professor at the University of Notre Dame, Thomas Morris:

“Efficiency is always relative to a goal or set of intentions. before you know where a person is efficient in what she is doing, you must know what it is she intends to be doing, what goals and values are governing the activity she is engaged in… In order to be able to derive the conclusion that if there is a God in charge of the world, he is grossly inefficient, one would have to know of all the relevant divine goals and values which would be operative in the creation and governance of a world such as ours.”

Not only is efficiency proportional to the ends desired, but efficiency is only a significant value to someone who has limited time or power.  For a God who lacks neither, Smith’s complaint against God’s intervention into the natural order of causes is unwarranted. Furthermore, there are many reasons why God might choose to be causally engaged in the activity of creation. Craig points out two: (i) God could delight in the work of creation and (ii) God might want to leave a general revelation of Himself in nature.

Smith has failed to show that the Big Bang is logically incompatible with God. Instead, the theistic explanation of the initial cosmological singularity remains superior to its atheistic  rival. To believe that our universe simply came into being out of nothing without a cause, furnished with a set of complex initial conditions so bizarrely improbable as to to ridicule comprehension, then accidentally evolved to fall into delicate balance with life-permitting conditions must be taken as wildly implausible at best, and plainly absurd at worst. The Big Bang, rather than taking us away from God, brings us closer to the Creator of Christian theism.

Notes:

Reason and Religious Belief by Michael Peterson,  William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach and David Basinger, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology by William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Oxford University Press, 1995.