Unobservability of an Uncaused Cause

Has anyone thought about how an uncaused cause would be unobservable by nature?

Welcome, and an interesting question. It immediately set me to reflecting about God’s providential interventions into the lives of his children. Regulars here will already be familiar with some of the objective evidence we have his providential M.O. that does not violate any natural laws. (A couple of choice examples are those of Maggie’s testimony and the change in direction of Rich Stearns life.)

It relates to your question because there is no apparent causal relationship between each of the several instances, instances that are discrete and disjoint from each other except for the key individual involved and the objective meaning that is thereby induced. (Another way to characterize the connection between the instances in each set is by the function the respective series of events perform, and the result.)

Now, about their observable causation. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you for the kind welcome, and those are wonderful stories you linked. It boggles my mind how God causes events like that to happen with so many people acting in their own way. I’m reminded of an early prayer for my father, and how at the moment of trusting God and not making a deal, my father pulled into the driveway.

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” Psalm 139

And this bit about the unobservability of an uncaused cause, or a singularity that can affect change without changing. Has it really gone unnoticed with all that has been said about the cosmological argument?

And it seems as if we are right on the verge of understanding the problem with science determining whether the universe begins in the past or the present. I think this is what Aquinas should have meant when he said the universe cannot be proven to have a beginning in time.

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I think it would depend on how we deal with spontaneity. One example that comes to mind is radioactive decay. In the alpha tunneling model, the alpha particle merely has a probability of suddenly appearing on the other side of the Coulomb barrier in the atomic nucleus (usual caveat: physics isn’t my specialty, so don’t take my descriptions as gospel). There really is no cause for the alpha particle appearing outside of the atomic nucleus, other than there is a probability it can happen. There is no cause and effect in the classical sense.


What T_auaticus explains sounds good to me (master in physics). Excellent, in fact!

That would be an example of the many uncaused causes in quantum physics rather than Aristotle’s single uncaused cause of everything. Though some believers like me might link the two.

We don’t know for sure that they are uncaused. But physicists have proven that there are no hidden variables within the accepted premises of the scientific worldview which determine those outcomes.

Thanks to both of you. In the scenario you describe, and please forgive my very general familiarity with physics, are phenomena that occur without an observable cause.

Notice that the unobservable nature of an uncaused cause, would mean that the immediate effect would appear as if the effect was caused by nothing.

I got started down this rabbit hole many years ago, with a version of the ontological argument that proves a necessary being due to the impossibility (or contradiction) of positing the existence of nothing (or non-being).

Later I completed an undergrad in philosophy, so I’m slightly more competent in that realm.

And it’s been a curious thing to watch the reaction of physicists in recent years when asked if there can be an infinite number of objects in space.

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Not exactly. Things generally have more than one cause… many things contributing to the outcome. But in the case of these events we are talking about, the causes are insufficient to determine the outcome. And it is not just that there are causes which are unobservable but we have proven they don’t even exist within the accepted premises of the scientific worldview. So either some things are simply without causes sufficient to determine them or some of the causes are outside those premises. Or to be more thorough about it, there are 5 possibilities.

  1. A few physicists like David Bohm simple toss the accepted premises of scientific worldview and try to construct an explanation for causes of those events outside them. These are the stubborn physical determinists.
  2. Determinism is discarded and we accept that there is an irreducible random element in the events of the universe.
  3. There are causes of these events from outside the observable physical universe.
  4. Some combination of 2 and 3 with both some things undetermined and an open door for causality from outside the physical universe. I prefer this possibility.
  5. I suppose we can (reluctantly) also include some other combination of 1, 2, and 3. Since there are 3 other possible combinations (1 and 2, 1 and 3, 1 and 2 and 3), I suppose you can count this as a total of 7 possibilities. But most simply reject Bohm’s idea as nonsense to reaffirm the premises of the scientific worldview – notice all three of these combinations include 1,

It is possible. We simply do not know.

Surely I do. Imagining it trailing off on the horizon doesn’t get you there. Nor would most think that it’s possible through successive addition.

Insufficiently measurable or unobservable. There may be a determining cause that is yet to be measured, but that too cannot be something that can affect change without changing.

There is no uncaused cause in eternity, apart from all the time.

I tend to be agnostic on the beginning of uneventful time.

But an uncaused cause… how surpassing is the wonder of what it is for a person to have the ability to act. To be be able to cause an event in and of their self, to make a choice, however insignificant, it would only have to happen once, for it to turn a (deterministic) world inside out.


ETA: strikethrough.

God’s providential interventions are pretty wondrous (and cool!), demonstrating his sovereignty over time and place and timing and placing, with function and meaning being obvious and objective, but without naturally detectable causation!

Nothing happens once.

People are pretty amazing too, even when they appear so unreal in the corruption of their sin.

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My contention is that God is omnitemporal (not that we can get our heads around that!), and that his will and thoughts (the latter cannot really be plural, since it’s a ‘one time’ or ‘all times’ instantaneous thing). How he relates to us stuck, so to speak, in relatively linear and sequential time is dynamic and ‘cooperative’ (and a wonderful – or terrible – mystery), and we are still responsible for our choices.

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Oh yeah!! That’s a nice way to put it. I’d see that as an aspect of his simple nature, of not being composed of parts, which probably relates with his knowledge of the future. But he is also capable of particular knowledge and emotions as the incarnation so beautifully assures us.

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Jesus submitted himself to being time-bound (à la Philippians 2:8) and our experience of thought, emotions, will and action.

Also, as in Hebrews 5:2, not himself subject to sin but temptation,

He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Because he suffered to the uttermost, there is hope in God and the gift of the Spirit.

I love the passage in Isaiah, where in the presence of God, Isaiah literally woke up to the iniquity of his lips. And then the angel brought this symbol of God’s grace, that shows salvation is purely a gift.

Or like the covenant with Abraham, where God took the maledictory oath upon himself.

But let’s get back to metaphysics proper.

I’ve found little hesitation in saying that according to reason, one cannot know whether the cause of the universe is aware of its action. It may be, it may not, or it may not yet be aware. That’s what I heard Hegel saying when he wrote about the goal of history (or this life) being for reason to become conscious of itself.

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We, however, have Psalm 19:1-2, not to mention Romans 1:20.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-2

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

I tend to be pro-agnostic in relation to anything too old or far away for any useful evidence to reach us. When it comes to claims regarding first person direct experience I don’t expect the same sort of evidence. Given my sense of the divine, that means both beliefs regarding who we and who God may be are exempt … provided we don’t stridently posit anything too specific or empirical in nature.

As special as it is to Christians, the Bible is a text composed of words, though I’ll grant they are inspired. But in my opinion the Bible should be regarded as a map of the whatever you want to call the something more many of us believe to be there beyond our direct control or wisdom. No map can or should replace the world. We can’t live in a map but we can use it to get where or how we want to want to be. Unlike Christians I do not think the Bible is the only inspired text or the only map to what is beyond our own limited reach.

But I’m curious what you have in mind when you write “the beginning of uneventful time”.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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