If the universe has a beginning does that prove God exists?

21

10

It is curious to note that a eminent Physicist like Stephen Hawking thinks the universe has a beginning. This has some rather startling Religious implications

You can find the link here: http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

Now let us take Thomas Aquinas argument for the existence of God. It in its simplest forms says this.

  • Things do not come into existence uncaused
  • The universe came into existence
  • Therefore the universe must have a cause

  • Whatever this cause it had to exist outside of space and time ie spaceless and immaterial

  • It had to be all powerful and all knowing

Before you know it you have your self something resembling a God.

Now the only two outs the atheist has to that argument is either positing a eternal universe or holding to the idea that things can come into existence uncaused.

Now if the first has been dis-proven by science and the idea of things coming into existence uncaused akin to believing in magic.

Has Stephen Hawking proven God's existance?

Neil Meyer

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation:

1@Sklivvz - He doesn't say that (the above summary isn't a very good one). If you read his Five Ways, you'll see he works from things in the word to a first cause. – danielm – 2012-11-23T22:16:03.753

@rburhum - Though the above is not a good summary of Aquinas, Aquinas never concludes that he can arrive at the Abrahamic God through reason alone. He only proves a highest principle and cause. The rest is a matter of revelation. – danielm – 2012-11-23T22:20:09.083

@NeilMayer - Because you had multiple profiles in the past; I'm not sure we ever went through with the merging process or how that was handled. – stoicfury – 2013-04-25T18:24:18.573

@stoicfury another issue here might be that the question was migrated from another site. – Joseph Weissman – 2013-04-25T18:24:44.650

This question is lacking because it asks for counterarguments to a weak form of the case from space+matter+time => God than what exists today from apologists such as Frank Turek or Ravi Zacharias. – Don Branson – 2019-07-18T14:03:07.473

@danielm i was hoping you could look at this article and offer any feedback. thanks! https://yishairasowsky.medium.com/how-do-we-know-god-exists-9301e091ed92

– yishairasowsky – 2021-01-31T18:53:18.813

I feel that people may think that Hawkings was trying to prove god. Hawkings does not even believe in God's existence. – CognisMantis – 2014-11-05T19:13:41.710

10Thomas Aquinas states that things do not come into existence uncaused. Has he just disproved the existence of God, as a logical impossibility? – Sklivvz – 2011-10-11T03:46:51.413

1How do you from those premises to the conclusion that the creator was your traditional monotheistic Abrahamic God? What about 10 powerful beings, that when combined are all powerful (but not by themselves)? Still follows the same logic... – rburhum – 2011-10-12T18:30:10.797

1This is the Kalaam cosmological argument and Aquinas rejected it, because while he believed that the universe did have a beginning he also believed that this was not amenable to a rational proof, that is, it was a piece of revealed knowledge. In fact, Aquinas famously argues that even if the universe were past-eternal, as his master Aristotle held, there would still have to be a First Cause. – G. Rodrigues – 2011-10-18T23:43:26.427

Maybe And those people saying that god must need cause he doesn't. God is does not exist in time or he is in multiple time demensions So therefore their is no cause and effect for him – None – 2015-03-28T16:50:19.150

Assuming for the sake of discussion that the argument is valid, all it says is that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (PBUH) created the universe. Prove me wrong. I.e. why my identification of this being is not radically better than yours.

– Cheers and hth. - Alf – 2015-06-11T00:54:42.707

Answers

30

No, Hawking did not just prove God's existence. Here's why:

  • Even if your argument is true (it's not), it would only imply the existence of something that is capable of causing universes. This "universe-causer" need not even be sentient, and certainly wouldn't have to be a God.
  • The problem with invoking God as the cause through arguing that "nothing is uncaused" is that then logically God himself would require a cause. You cannot say "nothing is uncaused" and invoke an uncaused agent. Either there are things that can be uncaused, or there aren't. In other words, if you want to invoke an uncaused God, then the physicist can just as easily invoke an uncaused universe.
  • Steven Hawking didn't prove anything, he merely hypothesized that it had a beginning. In layman's terms, he essentially made a wild guess, because given the nature of the question this is not something anyone would even begin to be able to answer; it wouldn't matter if you were the smartest man in the world.
  • Thomas Aquinas' argument is a non-sequitur. It nowhere follows that "Whatever this cause it had to exist outside of space and time ie spaceless and immaterial", nor "It had to be all powerful and all knowing". These are just arbitrary assertions.

stoicfury

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 11 008

3I suggest we read Aquinas's original Five Ways. Neil does not provide an equivalent proof. Aquinas proceeds from the premise that all things in the universe are caused, and concludes that in order to avoid an infinite regress would require a first uncaused cause. Also, if we assume that the universe is ALL that is material existing within space and time, then clearly its cause must be not of these qualities. Otherwise, this cause would not have caused the universe as it is defined. A possible point of attack may be the assumed definition of the universe. – danielm – 2012-11-23T22:42:05.563

3The premise "all things in the universe are caused" is a difficult claim to justify. Things may appear to be caused but what's to say that they can't arise uncaused as well? Further, it's hard to prove why avoiding an infinite regress is something we ought to do. What gives you the basis to say that avoiding infinite regress is better than not avoiding it? :P – stoicfury – 2012-11-24T04:39:54.897

3Well, first of all, I'm not defending Aquinas, I'm merely correcting a misrepresentation of his actual argument. Second, the above is not the argument you originally presented. In any case, Aquinas assumes the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) which is a commonly accepted induction from observation. You can attack it, but then you're not just undermining Aquinas. Third, Aquinas, again making use of the PSR, argues that an infinite regress of causes itself needs a cause. So really the only assumption one can pick at is the PSR. – danielm – 2012-11-24T18:12:38.247

1The question doesn't say "nothing is uncaused"? It says "Things do not come into existence uncaused". – curiousdannii – 2019-07-18T13:21:55.077

1@curiousdannii - Yes, his rephrasing to "The problem with invoking God as the cause through arguing that "nothing is uncaused" is that then logically God himself would require a cause" leads him to respond to a claim that wasn't made. – Don Branson – 2019-07-18T13:55:51.800

Anyway, Frank Turek does a much better job of arguing from the existence of space+matter+time to the existence of God. The attenuated argument presented in the OP's question is much easier to counter than Turek's. – Don Branson – 2019-07-18T13:59:16.700

@stoicfury great answer, also I like that you do not find infinite regresses a problem. – hellyale – 2015-07-10T06:35:54.980

28

No

There are several problems with your assumption

  • How did God come into existence if things do not come into existence? You would need to alter the first statement to "Created things do not come into existence uncaused"

    This argument can be expanded indefinetely and is known as Turtles all the way down. The Cosmological argument exaplains other objections to this statement.

    Additionally the current sientific census states, that quantum mechanics allows things to come into existence uncaused. The most known example are virtual particles. You can read some more here

  • A first cause does not prove God, especially not the God of Abraham.

    Just because something is unexplainable for us, it does not prove God in any way. Ancient people tried to explain a lot of things with God, don't make the same mistake. Using a supernatural explanation for unknown phenomena is not modern science.

Sven

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 389

@MoziburUllah random in computer is based on its clock. if you can predict very exact parts of time you can predict the place of points. it is not really random. – Battle of Karbala – 2012-11-29T12:10:34.617

your link http://www.braungardt.com/Physics/Vacuum%20Fluctuation.htm is irrelevant.

– Battle of Karbala – 2012-11-29T12:25:33.773

what is the scientific citation that virtual particle have no cause for their existence? – Battle of Karbala – 2012-11-29T13:17:29.203

God never come to existence. you assumed God has come to existence. – Battle of Karbala – 2014-04-04T09:50:28.667

6Do I need to explain again why the idea of who created the creator is fallacious? – None – 2011-10-10T16:48:51.503

2

@Neil: As appealing as it is, comments are not the place to discuss. Take it to chat.

– El'endia Starman – 2011-10-10T16:51:15.120

1@Neil Meyer: you presume that you have explained it once in the first place; I didn't notice, frankly. – Niel de Beaudrap – 2011-10-11T01:34:11.850

5Virtual particles do not come into existence at all. That's why they are called virtual. – Sklivvz – 2011-10-11T03:43:31.683

1@BeatMe: Surely this depends on exactly what you mean by cause? If I ran a program on a computer and I got points randomly appearing and disappearing on a monitor, if someone was then to ask what causes those points to flicker; surely the best answer would be I just ran 'flashing sparks' program. Analogously could I not then say the cause of virtual particles is the 'choice' of physical theory? – Mozibur Ullah – 2011-10-20T03:02:54.870

11

Aquinas claims that "Things do not come into existence uncaused", but how does he know this to be true? Is there any rigorous way he can eliminate the possibility that every once in a very great while (perhaps just once, in fact), something did arise uncaused?

Second: if he is willing to accept an uncaused God, is there any reason not to accept an uncaused universe? Or, contrariwise, if he is not willing to accept that the universe is uncaused, why does he accept that God is uncaused? (And, saying that the universe is created and God is not simply begs the question; there's no way for him to know that the universe is created or that God is uncreated.)

Finally, Hawking hasn't proved anything-- he's merely hypothesized.

Michael Dorfman

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 22 863

1What Aquinas actually says in the Five Ways is that all things in the world have a cause (and arguably all these things in the world are the world). This is, of course, a commonly accepted induction from observation, and the reason why "proof" is de facto synonymous with "argument". Second, if the universe is all those things which have a cause, and if one is to avoid an infinite regress (which he seeks to do), one must conclude that there must have been a first cause that was itself uncaused. It's a simple argument, and its points of attack are not those given. – danielm – 2012-11-23T22:50:55.350

6

Not only is the answer an obvious "no" because the premises don't restrict the solution to an entity that would conventionally be called God (e.g. the universe is a forgotten and unattended simulation on a computer in another universe with vastly more computational power than ours), there are other possibilities that haven't even been considered. For example, the universe could be self-causing (e.g. the "end" of the universe causes the "beginning"). This breaks temporal causality, but we don't have much evidence that temporal causality makes sense outside of the universe anyway.

We can conclude that the Big Bang was a unique event, but there is insufficient information to conclude much more.

Rex Kerr

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 15 388

4

Just because the Universe has a beginning does not mean that there had to be a god to create it. There could have been a cause that was not God. Perhaps there was a Universe that Predated our that no longer exists but was the roots of the creation of our universe. As we have no data upon which to evaluate this universe or any other competing or complementing universes there is no reason to think that the laws of this universe were identical or even similar to those of any previous universe.

Chad

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 1 512

"Preceding universes" would be tantamount to infinite regress, though, which Neil Meyer does mention as a possibility (while supposing however that it has been ruled out). – Niel de Beaudrap – 2011-10-11T01:38:38.180

1@NieldeBeaudrap - It does not have to be infinite. A single preceding universe that caused ours would be sufficient. – Chad – 2011-10-11T02:28:59.293

Yes, except that this would not satisfy most people; they would ask where that universe came from. ("Preceding universes" was really meant as a category of object that one might consider; cosmologists would likely extend their definitions to say that what came before was still the universe, and the modern pocket of familiar rules and matter would be called something quite like the "modern pocket" or something.) – Niel de Beaudrap – 2011-10-11T10:04:40.690

@NieldeBeaudrap - I am not trying to solve the ultimate question just show that it does not prove the existance of god. – Chad – 2011-10-11T14:18:53.217

4

It's not a counter-argument to Aquinas, but others have already adressed it.

I just want to say that Hawking's actual stance on the subject has changed. He argues that the Hawking-Hartle no boundary proposal (which is a way to compute the wavefunction of the universe) can be interpreted to mean that the universe had a beginning and still was not created.

Finally, whatever Hawking thinks about the matter, it is totally irrelevant to the existence of God. There's no sense speaking about God and arguing that some sophisticated piece of math proves or disproves his existence, if you can't even formulate what "God" means in that mathematical framework. In other words, Hawking is just doing very bad philosophy there.

Raskolnikov

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 402

1Hawking did not prove god, and he did not attempt to prove god. All he said was that our universe began. Hawkings wasn't doing any philosophy at all. – CognisMantis – 2014-11-05T19:11:14.617

1

No. The argument equates having a beginning with having a cause. These are not the same thing.

For example, if all of existence had a first state, it clearly had a beginning (that state). But that first state must have had no cause, because that would imply a state prior to the first state.

Also, this first state of existence is nothing like a god, since it ceases to exist as soon as the second state of existence comes along.

David Schwartz

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 1 010

"that first state must have had no cause, because that would imply a state prior to the first state." - That only works so long as time is absolute and only moves forward. – Chad – 2011-10-14T16:12:22.487

The OP's argument only works if the notion of a "cause" is meaningful. That doesn't require absolute time, but it does require at least a notion of successive states. – David Schwartz – 2011-10-14T19:07:21.220

1

No, because people don't agree with you.

"God" is just a word, which theoretically refers to an entity. Not everybody's definition of "God" is exactly the set of behaviors identified by Thomas Aquinas. As a trivial counter-example, many people's definition of God is "whatever the Bible says God is."

You could make a claim that "some entity must have the following traits if a universe has a beginning." You may even choose to label this entity "God." However, you do not automatically solve every God related question by doing so. You must first successfully defend the argument that your "God" entity is the same entity as the entity someone else refers to as "God."

Similar constructs appear in the debate of physicalism vs. dualism when talking about "the illusion of mind." Just because you can define an illusion with a given set of properties and call it "mind" does not mean it satisfies the needs of others who have dualistic definitions of "mind."

Cort Ammon

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 16 681

0

Not necessarily. There are facts and arguments one can submit either way regardless of how you believe the universe came to be.

More important than this issue, I think, is the issue of personal beliefs regarding life in general. I think that what you believe about life in general is more likely to influence what you believe the beginning may or may not mean than the other way around.

To put it differently: Your religious (or irreligious, however the case may be) beliefs are more like to dictate your beliefs regarding origins than vice versa.

I believe Aquinas' argument has been brought up to date in the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which has it's roots in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim philosophers. Though most strongly with the Muslims.

music2myear

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 109

0

The fifth point is troublesome. He claims the cause for the universe "had to be all powerful and all knowing". Why? It had to be very powerful. There is no need for it to be "all knowing" or even "a little bit knowing". What reason is there to believe that a hypothetical god who created the universe actually survived the creation and didn't die of exhaustion on the eighth day? Or committed suicide because he wasn't needed anymore?

There is no logical argument there, just idle speculation. Not that the other four points are much better.

gnasher729

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 3 297

0

Okay, in regard to the question whether the universe having a beginning is the evidence for the existence of God, my thinking grounded on facts and reason is yes: because otherwise where does the universe come from, from randomness and/or from nothing literally nothing, not nothing but understood as something like vacuum fluctuation but still with the psychology of literally nothing? That is being silly.

That is what atheists are always into, that randomness can lead to the existence of the universe because of the law of evolution, hahahaha! Or the law of nothing is the creator of everything, hahahahaha!

The task is how to put in words that facts and reason dictate that the universe having a beginning proves that God exists; and here is where we must all first work together to concur on the concept of God.

Of course atheists will try to muddle up the concept of God by bringing in flying spaghetti, pink unicorn, Santa, orbiting teapot, trying to sound flippant, and that is all they do all the time, if not resorting to cuss language then with dodging the issue all the time resorting to flippancy, or even worse, presenting a video of the entire female genitals, and claiming that that graphic is more interesting than their thinking on facts and reason to resolve the issue God exists or not -- again on facts and reason or logic.

Marius Dejess

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 85

1The concept of "before" becomes meaningless when considering a situation without time. -- Ricardo – Marius Dejess – 2015-06-10T22:44:49.563

This answer is pretty random in its flow and seems to intermingle some claims about atheists that aren't necessary to answer the question and distract from the position you're suggesting (at least as philosophy). Could you clean it up and make clearer how you think the connection works? – virmaior – 2015-10-08T11:12:41.997

0

God's existence is beyond any scientific fact, although logic could come to rescue.

As Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal also addressed this issue.

When he chose to believe in God, it was just the most primitive self-preservation instinct manifested as an unconscious rational choice (pretty much a conscious one, in his case).

As Blaise Pascal stated (see Pascal's Wager): He chose to believe in God as there is no proof that God doesn't exist. So, should God exist, his reward would be heaven and eternal joy. Should God not exist, he didn't lose anything.

In our days, insurance works more or less the same way. You choose to have insurance because it's better to have one though you're possibly never going to use it than to need one and not to have it.

Eventually a hypothetical religion could emerge, with a divinity that could create "everything" in such a way that proof of that divinity's existence could never be found. In which case Pascal is 100% right... again. Thus, atheists could not blame believers of that religion, as it is their most rational response to the uncertainty (though believers could blame atheists trying to find out whether God exists, as being somewhat masochistic, from their point of view of course).

Regarding that hypothetical religion one thing is for certain: believers and atheist both could agree that, if such a divinity exist, it is more likely that they're never going to find any proof of its existence.

I'd like to call this hypothetical religion "Religion 2.0", where even science could be considered part of its rituals, and every attempt to prove the non-existence of their God could be celebrated and glorified.

As a premise the question named God, no whose God, so in the case of religion 2.0 (the example above), Hawkings' argument is not sufficient as God could create an eternal universe, in the same way as one with a begining.

rraallvv

Posted 2011-10-10T15:43:47.537

Reputation: 433

3You are not directly referring to the question in your answer. You're touching the subject of proving God, but your idea of a Religion 2.0, which seems fragmentary has nothing to do with the question whether Hawking proved God's existence. – iphigenie – 2012-11-27T23:01:31.143

As a premise the question named God, no whose God, so in the case of religion 2.0 (the example above), Hawkings' argument is not sufficient as God could create an eternal universe, in the same way as one with a begining. – rraallvv – 2012-11-27T23:30:39.773

Maybe you should add this to your answer then. – iphigenie – 2012-11-27T23:34:48.297