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Basic Worldview:
102 Atheism vs. Theism


Charge 2, Questions 2 and 3

Prelude: "Atheism/Theism" vs. "Science, the Bible, & Creation"
Atheism: Introduction and Charges
Charge 1, Deduction and Induction
Charge 2, Question 1
Charge 2, Questions 2 and 3
Charge 2, Summary and Question 4
Charges 3 and 4, Definitions
Empirical Evidence
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 1
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 2
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 3
Occam's Razor and Conclusions
Footnote 1
Footnote 2 and 3
Proof of Life
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 1
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 2
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 3
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 4
Scientists: Life on Earth Imported from Outer Space
Atheisms Circle of Reasons
Is God a White Crow?



Assumption 1: Assume the universe is not eternal, that it had a beginning.

Question 2: If the universe is not eternal, did it cause itself or did something else cause it?

It is logically absurd for anything to be self-causing because it requires a nonexistent entity to perform an action at a time when that entity does not exist (specifically the action of creating itself). Since a nonexistent thing cannot perform an action, this option is ruled out. This leaves us with only one option. If the universe is not eternal, and cannot be self-causing then something other than the universe must have caused the universe to come into being.

Because of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and recent experiments such as those at the NEC Research Institute at Princeton, where particle physicists are said to have accelerated light pulses 300 times their normal speed, there has arisen in science the question of whether or not causation (the law of cause and effect) actually exists at all. However, even if it were to be shown that on a subatomic level, events were empirically observed without any empirically identifiable cause, this would not demonstrate that no cause exists for these effects, but would only demonstrate that causes may exist which are beyond direct empirical detection. This is perfectly consistent with our previous assumption that since the universe is not eternal its cause must exist outside the universe, which, by definition, would mean that this cause is unavailable to direct empirical detection.

And this does not constitute an infraction of Occam's Razor, since Occam's Razor does not prohibit suggesting what is empirically undetectable, but only prohibits suggesting what is unnecessary to explain the empirical evidence (or effects). A cause is necessary to explain an effect even if that cause is itself not directly empirically detectable. Therefore the above conclusion does not contravene Occam's Razor.

This leads us to our second of our three initial assumptions. Since the universe is not eternal and no thing can cause itself, then the universe must have been caused by something outside (apart from) the universe.

Assumption 2: Something apart from the universe exists and the universe was created by that something, which exists outside (apart from) itself.

Question 3: Is the thing, which caused the universe eternal?

Logically speaking we have only two options here. If we assume that the thing that caused the universe is not eternal, then that thing would itself require a cause (since according to logic, nothing can be self-creating.) This very quickly would lead to what is logically known as "infinite regress."

Infinite regress is logically undesirable because it necessarily lacks a sufficient explanation (i.e. sufficient cause). Because each suggested cause cannot exist without a cause, it requires a cause of its own, which in turn, being not eternal, is not sufficient either and so requires yet another cause of its own, and on and on into infinity without a sufficient cause.

A sufficient cause is a cause that requires no additional cause to explain how it came into being. Without a sufficient cause, the universe would not exist. Yet the universe does exist. So there must have been a sufficient cause, a cause that was not itself caused by anything else. Or in other words, because the universe exists, there must be at least one cause (the first cause in the entire sequence of causes) that is eternal and, therefore, required no cause before it. A sufficient cause is a cause that requires no cause itself and therefore a sufficient cause is, by definition, an uncaused cause or eternal cause.

In summary, infinite regress is an illogical explanation of the universe because it necessarily lacks a sufficient cause whereas the fact of the universe's existences demands the existence of a sufficient cause.

(See Footnote 1 - on hypothetical infinite series of causation and cyclical causation.)

To avoid infinite regress we must identify a cause, which has no cause, an uncaused cause or first cause. Logically, a first cause is necessitated by the existence of the universe. And logically speaking, we should assume the shortest possible series of causes. It is logically extraneous to create a series of causes leading back to a first cause when only one cause, the first cause, is needed to explain the existence of the universe. This principle, known as Occam's (or Ockham's) Razor, is also called the Law of Parsimony.

The American Heritage¨ Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines Occam's Razor as follow:

"Ockham's razor - A rule in science and philosophy stating that entities should not be multiplied needlessly. This rule is interpreted to mean that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable and that an explanation for unknown phenomena should first be attempted in terms of what is already known. Also called law of parsimony."

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition says it this way:

"In the area of logic, where he had great influence, he is remembered for his use of the principle of parsimony, formulated as 'Occam's razor,' which enjoined economy in explanation with the axiom, 'What can be done with fewer [assumptions] is done in vain with more.' "

This is what we mean by an argument for simplicity. Simply put, the simplest SUFFICIENT explanation should be accepted because more complicated explanations include elements that are unnecessary to a sufficient explanation.

In fact, this argument for simplicity is exactly the charge that Atheists bring against Theists. Atheists claim that natural forces (laws) are sufficient to explain the existence of the universe as we know it. Thus, for the Atheist, when the Theist suggests the existence of god, the Theist is suggesting more than is necessary to explain the existence of the universe. Therefore, the Atheists charge that the Theist is breaking the logical mandate for the simplest sufficient explanation. (We will cover this point in more detail later on when we answer Question No. 4.)

Since we have no evidence suggesting a series of causes rather than a single cause for the universe, it is logical to assume that the universe was preceded by only one cause, the first cause, the uncaused cause, the eternal cause.

Because of this we arrive at the third and last of our initial 3 assumptions.

Assumption 3: Assume that the thing that caused the universe is eternal. (It is the uncaused cause. There are no intervening causes.)