William lane craig arguments

(Matthew Pevarnik) #162

Kind of is my answer. I would even back up and say the Big Bang model of the universe describes what we see in reality quite well, especially in regards to the distribution of elements, the redshift of light, the distribution and wide-scale structure of galaxies, the cosmic microwave background, etc.

So all of these provide confidence that yes indeed our universe came from a very hot and dense initial state. However, the mathematical framework that allows for such confidence in this model, i.e. General Relativity, breaks down and fails to describe what happens in such cases (i.e. a singularity or singularity-like state). Generally speaking, physicists hate infinities and that is all we get at the beginning of the universe, indicating that there is something more to the picture. Hence the search for quantum gravity… This a-capella science video sums up the challenge pretty nicely:

It’s a pretty deep video actually that makes more sense the more you learn about these topics and it even describes attempts at string theory to understand our universe and many of the problems that we face.

The BVG theorem gets way too much attention in apologetics arguments. We have several who use a version of the Kalam argument (like WLC or Hugh Ross with Reasons to Believe) who hold the Theorem over the heads of practicing cosmologists essentially implying that they know how to really apply this Theorem as absolute proof that God created the universe.

I was curious myself (not being a cosmologist) as to how people who professionally work in the field think of such a theorem. So one way to do this is search Google Scholar or something equivalent on who has cited the BVG theorem paper. I see some 300+ citations in my search. One thing I definitely see is that it isn’t hailed as a grand apologetic that the only model of the universe is in fact the one where we have no explanation except god. But yet, that is how it is used by Christian apologists and then the rest of us might as well take their word for it because they definitely are quite confident.

At the end of the day though, I don’t know. For all I know we will never find any explanations for the beginning of our universe (maybe not in our lifetime or ever) and maybe this really is finally clear evidence of God that since science can’t explain something, God really did something in the natural world (without saying how or what he did or how he actually interacts with physical matter). Can someone believe by faith that God made the universe, yes of course! But that is a big difference from holding science over scientists heads and saying “we know how to really understand your theorems” and claiming it as absolute proof of God.


@pevaquark basically pointed out what’s going on here. At the earliest stage of the universe, there was a singularity, but beyond a certain point, we have no clue what was going on there because modern physics breaks down (discrepancy between quantum mechanics at small scales and Einstein’s general relativity at large scales). So it’s pretty befuddling and the ‘holy grail’ of modern physics is to unite quantum mechanics with general relativity into a unified theory of quantum gravity and be able to resolve all of this.

The past-eternal people don’t really have much leeway in all of this. The BGV Theorem (which contra pevaquark, is not said by Christians to be the final theorem that has put a total end to atheism) really only allows one possible approach to maintaining a past-eternal view of the universe: a theory of quantum gravity where time doesn’t exist. Under this view (which has not yet been validly described in any models) it is not really possible to speak of the ‘expansion of the universe’ in any real sense (since time doesn’t exist), and they just throw a quantum boundary at the ‘singularity’ point that, though this quantum boundary gives rise to our singularity, it itself is past-eternal. The problems speak for itself: no model is available that can describe such a universe (I don’t think one exists), and to me, it seems like an attempt to explain away data rather than to explain data. I.e., postulating unfalsifiable ideas to avoid what all the evidence says: the universe began to exist. But that’s my two cents.

(Luca) #164

I know waaaaay to little about the stuff.
The video is 1/3 understandable and 2/3 chinese to me. :rofl:

I don’t understand what you are saying here however. Do you trust that WLC for example knows this very well so we should trust him?

(Luca) #165

I read that vilenkin said the universe came from nothing.
And or that quantum mechanics gave rise to it.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #166

I don’t think he is arguing for that model at all. Here is him speaking on ‘nothing’:

Some people claim your work proves the existence of God, or at least of a divine moment of creation. What do you think?

I don’t think it proves anything one way or another.

I went to a meeting of some theologians and cosmologists. Basically, I realized these theologians have the same problem with God. What was He doing before He created the universe? Why did He suddenly decide to create the universe?

For many physicists, the beginning of the universe is uncomfortable, because it suggests that something must have caused the beginning, that there should be some cause outside the universe. In fact, we now have models where that’s not necessary—the universe spontaneously appears, quantum mechanically.

In quantum physics, events do not necessarily have a cause, just some probability.

As such, there is some probability for the universe to pop out of “nothing.” You can find the relative probability for it to be this size or that size and have various properties, but there will not be a particular cause for any of it, just probabilities.

I say “nothing” in quotations because the nothing that we were referring to here is the absence of matter, space and time. That is as close to nothing as you can get, but what is still required here is the laws of physics. So the laws of physics should still be there, and they are definitely not nothing.

At the end of the day, I personally would never turn to a professional apologist to learn about anything related to science except how do the best Christian thinkers currently use the results of modern science to argue for their worldview. And where does that take someone? I’ve read plenty of other faith traditions using some result of modern science to argue for their particular worldview (i.e. the apologists of Kabbalah, Islam, Buddhism, Jehovah’s witnesses, etc.). For me, for now, I’ve just stuck to learning about things we can actually test or prove instead of metaphysical pseudoscience. Other people like philosophy/metaphysics, but you can count me out of those as much as I can since there is no way to objectively test between different models.


I nominate this for the Quote Hall of Fame, if we have one.

(Luca) #168

I see. Thanks!

(Luca) #169

Indeed WLC seems to say that there is absolutely nothing.
While vilenkin doesn’t say that.

So Vilenkin’s view is that the universe did, indeed, as you put it, “come from absolutely nothing.” But let’s be careful here, David. That does not imply that “the universe can indeed pull itself up by its bootstraps through quantum mechanics.” For that metaphor implies that the universe is self-caused, whereas Vilenkin’s view is that it is uncaused. I won’t speculate on Vilenkin’s personal motivation for his view but shall restrict myself to commenting on the credibility of his claim that, as you put it, “quantum mechanics can indeed lead to spontaneous creation without a prior quantum mechanical state.”

from https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/vilenkin-on-the-universes-coming-into-being-without-a-cause/

But he also says this:

Vilenkin, however, infers that “no cause is needed” for the universe’s coming into being because the conservation laws would not prevent it and “according to quantum mechanics, any process which is not strictly forbidden by the conservation laws will happen.” (Vilenkin assumes that if there were nothing, then both the conservation laws and quantum physical laws would still hold. This is far from obvious, however, since in the absence of anything at all, it is not clear that the laws governing our universe would hold.) But even granted that the laws would still hold, why think that, given the laws of quantum mechanics, anything not strictly forbidden by the conservation laws will happen? The conservation laws do not strictly forbid God’s sending everyone to heaven, but that hardly gives grounds for optimism. Neither do they strictly forbid His sending everyone to hell, in which case both outcomes will occur, which is logically impossible, as they are logically contrary universal generalizations. The point can be made non-theologically as well: the conservation laws do not strictly forbid something’s coming into existence, but neither do they forbid nothing’s coming into existence, but both cannot happen. It is logically absurd to think that because something is not forbidden by the conservation laws, it will therefore happen.

i personally like philosophy

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #170

@pevaquark, you did not respond to my earlier post when I disputed your contention that there is no connection between the Big Bang and God.

It just occurred to me that you must think of God as Absolute, which is not an uncommon mistake, particularly in the past. The Absolute God is unknowable and unknown. That God also cannot love because that God is not related or relational.

The God of the Bible is not Absolute in that sense. YHWH is the GOD Who RELATES, the GOD Who CARES.

The BVG theorem says that the universe has a Beginning. Christians of course underscore this because that is exactly what the Bible says, and many unbelievers have denied. The question remains as to the meaning of this theorem.

I do not know of anyone who says that the BVG theorem is absolute proof that God created the universe. Absolute proof would be fool proof and everyone knows that nothing is fool proof.

BVG and the Big Bang is science. Knowledge of God is theology and some philosophy. BVG and the Big Bang take us to the edge of science, the edge of time, space, matter, and energy. Scientific knowledge cannot take us across the divide into the spiritual and rational, but that does not mean that this divide cannot be crossed or should not be crossed.

If God is Absolute that divide cannot be crossed, but those unbelievers who say that there is no evidence for God, they say that the divide cannot be crossed because there is no God. Of course materialists are saying that science cannot provide evidence for the existence of God, because God does not exist.

However we know that the universe is finite, which means that it did have a beginning, and God is not finite, which means God does not have a Beginning. Since logically only one reality can be infinite and that is God, the universe must be created or caused by God. This is confirmed by the fact that the universe has an absolute beginning, it was created ex nihilo. This is what the evidence indicates.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #171

This is a strange statement. Nothing is nothing. “The laws of physics” do not stand apart from the universe. No universe, no laws, no nothing.

The multiverse as I understand it is built on multiple universes each with different laws and structures until one “works” the way it is supposed to work, that is like our universe. [I trust you see the irony here.]

Quantum physics is very different from regular physics. I don’t thing that one can really talk about events in quantum physics. There is good reason why we do not live in the quantum world, but the “real” world.

As such by this thinking, there is the same probability (100%) for the universe to “pop into nothing.”

I really do not know any “professional apologists,” but I do find that Dawkins, Dennett, Kraus, Hawking, at al use their science to argue for their world view. It is ironic that scientists say that they want laypersons to be knowledgeable in science, but then do not want to deal with the questions that knowledgeability brings. We need to learn to give and take so we can all learn.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #172

Ah I’ll have to check it out. Since there definitely is not a connection in the scientific sense, which is really all that can be actually tested, I might not be too convinced. Then again, your idea is probably not falsifiable which means I couldn’t prove your wrong even if I disagreed.

I actually did misuse the word ‘absolute’ above. All that I actually meant was twofold:

  • Apologists have absolute confidence that they are correct. If they didn’t have this absolute confidence they’d be out of a job as an apologist so the people appearing have already been “naturally selected” for by consumers (i.e. Christians who want to hear what apologists say to defend their faith).
  • The word ‘absolute’ proof is the wrong phrase. I thank you for pointing that out to me. My thoughts have evolved on this particular topic as I used to think that nature proved all kinds of things about the Christian God. Then I realized it did nothing of the sort, but at least was consistent with a wise, Cosmic creator and grand architect of reality. But then I realized the problem in all of this… I had no idea what a world would actually look like that any particular God made. Since nobody can ever demonstrate how any spiritual being can interact with physical matter (yes I know people of all different kinds of faiths will claim their spiritual entity actually interacts with matter but nobody can prove anything or judge between such claims).

Duly noted, I was imprecise in my language as noted above.

Yeah I dunno. This sounds just like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover argument all over again (which maybe it is a sort of ‘first cause’ argument). That argument was great until we realized it was compeltely wrong and no mover was required to explain the motion of the planets and stars. Perhaps someday we will also realize we were completely wrong and no god needs to be invoked to explain this particular unknown of science. And then apologists/believers retreat further into the gaps of knowledge wherever they may move to be.

In all of this, I will admit that I do consider myself to be a Christian but not on the basis of any of this stuff.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #173

Matthew, thank you for your response.

I am going to disagree with you. We do know what the world of the god Hitler would make. We know what world the god Lenin/Stalin would create.

The primary reason I entered this discussion is because I objected to the god of the Selfish Gene as portraye4d by Richard Dawkins. He basically says that evolution or nature is selfish and thus ethnically evil. Those who agree with him seem to support the Survival of the Fittest, or seem to have no logically viable ethic to it.

The issue as I see it is that they deny that Life is Good. They deny that Life has a real objective purpose and is thus meaningless and evil. They deny that life is rational, because it is solely physical, and the material cannot think. They deny the reality of the spiritual because the spiritual and the rational are not physical.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The primary problem is not that people do not agree as to what is good and true. The primary problem is that we do not agree that there is Truth and Goodness, because many think there is only the Many and no One. This is a philosophical question, but humans live in one Reality, which is physical (scientific), rational (philosophical), and spiritual (theological.)


The same as I would view the age of the solar system derived from observations. I don’t need to assume that spacetime started with our solar system, I don’t see why we must assume the same for the Big Bang. We have singularities in our own universe in the form of black holes, yet we don’t feel the need to claim that spacetime didn’t exist prior to the formation of those black holes.

The feeling is mutual. :slight_smile:


The point is that we can place t=0 wherever we want. We can put it at the initial expansion of the universe, the birth of our solar system, or our own birthday.


I don’t know anything about what happened prior to the Big Bang. All we do know right now is that all of the energy and spacetime of our universe started out as a singularity and expanded from there. As pure speculation, that looks a lot like a black hole to me, but I am certainly not wedded to the idea.

(Luca) #177

Oh. Well i know absolutely nothing about black holes! :stuck_out_tongue:


If you are interested in studying a topic in cosmology that might be a good one to look at. Black holes are singularities and so they may help you understand some of the problems that physics faces with moving backwards from the Big Bang.

(Luca) #179

All i know (i dont even know if its true) is that black holes suck up everything that comes near and it dissapears.
i could do that yes.

(Luca) #180

What do you guys think of WLC’s answer to this fellow’s question?
He brings up the same arguments/ topics as you guys.


(GJDS) #181

I have to assume you are joking - the age of the universe is given as an absolute value based on measurements. Very simplified, the big bang theory assumes that for a very small amount of time, all that became the universe is assumed to have been present as a singularity, and for this period the laws of physics break down. It is this that causes us to say we do not know (or scientists are left to speculate) - but even this period is discussed as time.

The discussion has taken a turn away from the topic and I do not think we can continue is a productive manner. However I insist that as far as we understand, discussions on the age of the universe, constants and fine tuning show that atheists have adopted a position that is weakened by the data obtained thus far, ie that it is all due to randomness, or an absence of causality.