a tippling philosopher



Does modern cosmology supply the materials that can fill gaps in the traditional arguments for the existence of God?

By Jonathan M.S. Pearce, August 2010

In view of the belief that there has been a shift in the landscape of modern philosophy, with regards to the respectful position now adopted by theists, it is important to reassess this landscape at regular intervals.  This is not particularly due to new philosophies being developed ex nihilo, but more in light of the nature of modern physics, and the constant change involved in the discipline.  The assumptions that underlie most premises in cosmological arguments are often open to debate, and they depend, in no small part, on present physical and cosmological understanding.  Since these are shifting sands of understanding, then philosophers must be cautious when making truly assertive and dogmatic claims.  Though there are very good arguments indeed for remaining agnostic on many theories (to adopt a truly Pyrrhoian[1] sceptical approach), there is still an attractive quality about holding a definite position, whether as part of a cumulative case, or in isolation, in order to inform a worldview.  That being said, all too often, worldviews inform people’s interpretation of evidence, rather than the opposite.

One of the issues with looking at gaps in theistic arguments is that, in reality, there aren’t many clear gaps.  There aren’t many because of the nature of God.  If God is omnipotent, then, theoretically, there is nothing God cannot do short of logical impossibilities.  Therefore, God can be manipulated in such a way as to be able to weather most criticisms, especially since God is mainly seen (for those who have not had experiential evidence at least) as a theoretical entity, and he can be postulated in many situations that are outside our ability to get empirical evidence to support that postulation.  Arguments for naturalistic atheism simply can’t afford this sort of explanatory potentiality.   As such, there aren’t the holes in theistic arguments that may exist in naturalistic arguments.  For example, the creation out of nothing of the universe can easily be explained by God, and yet not by naturalistic methods because naturalistic methods always seem to require a mechanistic explanation, whereas God simply gets away with being omnipotent.  Although there might not be many gaps in theistic arguments for the existence of God, there are certainly weaknesses: chinks in the armour.  In this light, then, does modern cosmology act as a smooth plaster to coat over these cracks?

Theistic philosophers and theologians such as the ubiquitous William Lane Craig have made a habit of re-polishing tarnished old arguments such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA), the Argument from Design and even the Ontological Argument so that they gleam anew, and carry good weight.  So how does it leave the playing field?  Can these arguments be formulated from a non-theistic point of view to conclude antithetically?  Can the gaps in causality only be filled by God and can cosmology come to God’s help?  In this essay, I hope to show that the cosmology involved in cosmological arguments can actually lead to different conclusions from those of Craig and theists who seek to use cosmology for their own ends; that multiverse theories do provide issues for fine-tuning theories; and that time in a four-dimensional sense leads to a potentially deterministic understanding of the universe.  With these assertions in mind, and considering the ever-changing grounds of cosmology, I maintain that being dogmatic either way, whether one posits God or a naturalist explanation of cosmology in the gaps, one should indeed remain, at least in view of these arguments, strongly agnostic.

Let us begin by looking at the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA).  The KCA, as Craig would establish it in its simplest form, is as follows:


1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.[2]


The first point to make in regard to this argument is with premise 1.  It seems somewhat presumptuous to make a generalised rule about something that has only happened (to our knowledge, and that is itself open to challenge) once, and in such a way that we do not know the causal process, and therefore cannot make a generalised rule.  What Craig is doing here is making a statement based on observations within a system to create a rule that supposedly governs the system itself.  On face value, it may seem true that everything within this cosmos that begins to exist, has a cause.  However, on closer examination, one can see that nothing ‘comes into existence’ in our cosmos, not in any material sense, anyway.  All things that begin to exist, already existed in a different or re-arranged form.  For example, one might think that there is a preceding cause to a radio coming into existence: the company that designed and manufactured it.  And yet, the radio already existed, but merely in different atomic structures: the plastics as oil; the metal in their respective ores etc.  In fact, looking at the finite matter of the universe, the only thing that has ‘come into existence’ has been the universe itself.  Therefore, it is incoherent to claim that all things that come into existence have a (preceding) cause, when the only thing that has come into existence is the very thing whose existence we are trying to fathom.

This argument, though, is not as simple as meets the eye.  Someone in Craig’s position may claim that the abstract idea of a radio did, indeed, come into existence at the point of it being manufactured, or even the point of being first thought of.  The argument then becomes a matter of whether abstract objects and ideas exist objectively.  This is known as the Problem of Universals.  Are ‘strength’ or the ‘quality of redness’ objective realities?  Is William Craig, himself, an objective reality, or is the only reality that exists the atoms and energy that make up his corporeal personhood?  When does a beach become a beach, objectively?  The slippery slope fallacy (theory of the beard) would hold that there is an arbitrary point (number of granules of sand) at which we can label the beach a beach.  Craig, to hold to the KCA must adhere to realism.  That is to say, he must believe that abstract thoughts and ideas have objective realities in order to ‘come into existence’.  We know this because, as stated, the only things that can be argued to come into existence, since all matter (energy) already exists, are abstract ideas.  And if premise 1 is to have any sort of meaning or coherence, then abstract things must exist (i.e. come into existence).  Remember, “whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence”.  Personally, as a nominalist, I find it impossible to grant that universals have objectively real existence.  It appears that abstract ideas have no objective reality, that seeing the redness of a new car is a reaction that my brain has in the situation of seeing the car, but that quality is not objectively existent.

Let us look, then, at nominalism.  Do I have any basis to allow myself to be a nominalist, to deny the objective existence of abstract ideas?  Plato was probably the first philosopher to deal with the problem of universals, the existence of abstracts.  He believed that there was another realm, another dimension, aside from the physical world, where abstracts exist.  With our modern understanding of the world, this seems (to me, at any rate) a little far-fetched.  Naturalism[3], as a worldview, would deny such an existence outside of space and time.  The locus of existence for universals remains a problem that realists fail to be able to answer.  Another possibility is that the abstract ideas do exist in the mind, and not as an external reality.  This is a position to which I could logically hold, and is known as conceptualism.  However, if abstract ideas can exist, but only in the mind, the argument then devolves to one of dualism against monism (or some kind of physicalism).  In other words, does the mind exist in a realm outside of the natural world (dualism) or can the mind be explained within the context of the physical world (monism through physicalism)?  Occam’s Razor[4] can be called in here to the defence of physicalism, and nominalism (or conceptualism).  Need we rely on the existence of another, as yet empirically unevidenced[5], dimension to explain minds and universals?  The debate about consciousness will no doubt rage on for some years to come, though it seems that little evidence has been added to the Cartesian[6] argument for dualism, and much progress has been made in understanding consciousness in terms of physical explanations, or physical dependency.

So, it seems, abstract ideas could exist in the mind alone (as conceptualism suggests), but if the mind is physical in nature, then the abstract ideas themselves become physical phenomena.  Universals are simply the rearrangement of pre-existing physical matter within the confines of the physically explained mind.  Therefore, nothing, not even abstracts, has come into existence.  That which came into existence was already there, it was just reformed.  A physicalist (naturalist) worldview implies that abstracts are material in foundation.

However, even granting that Craig is correct in his assumptions of the truth of realism, can he use the notions of the existence of abstract ideas to infer a quality about the material universe at the Big Bang?  Here, I would again have to say that the position is untenable.  At the Big Bang, the universe was an infinitely dense bundle of matter or energy.  This is a purely material ‘coming into existence’ and remains the only material ‘coming into existence’ up unto this very day.  Apples and oranges.  Craig is using characteristics of one idea of reality (abstract ideas) and transferring them across to something else (the only material form that has come into existence).  Craig is claiming that abstract ideas come into existence.  He claims that these need a cause.  He then claims that the universe came into existence, and, therefore, it needs a cause.  However, just because abstract ideas (in Craig’s view) come into existence and require causes, it does not follow that the universe (a dense bundle of matter and energy at the singularity) came into existence and required a cause.  This is analogous to saying that plants need roots to gather nutrients and, as such, all living things need roots to gather nutrients.  Therefore, animals need roots to gather nutrients.  This clearly does not follow logically.

Thus, whether one is a realist or a nominalist (which, on its own, can make the KCA incoherent), the implications for the first premise of the KCA are seemingly terminal.

Let us now look at the KCA again.  Craig posits, to support his second premise with scientific credibility, the following:


These purely philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe have received remarkable confirmation from discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics during this century. These confirmations might be summarized under two heads: the confirmation from the expansion of the universe and the confirmation from thermodynamic properties of the universe.[7]


Essentially, he, and many cosmologists such as Paul Davies[8], claim that the cosmos started with a singularity, implying a beginning.  The universe is almost universally believed to be expanding and has been for some 13 billion years or so, when it was, in its totality, condensed into a size smaller than a speck of dust. 

If we look past the issues that were just exhibited with regards to premise 1, then let us look at the notion that the cosmos had a definite beginning.  In one fell swoop, Craig dismisses or ignores many good alternative explanations, with apparent ease.  But I would be a little more cautious than that. 

Stephen Hawking, ubiquitously quoted on this subject, has now retracted his previously held belief in an initial singularity.  Hawking, and many others, have misgivings over the science underlying singularities, and possible explanations for observed phenomena[9].  Hawking has proposed several alternatives, most famously with Jim Hartle, the most notable of which is often called the No-Boundary Hypothesis which posits that time loses characteristics of spatiality and therefore “the concept of a beginning in time become meaningless”[10].  Time has ‘no boundary’, such as like the planet earth (or a ball) has no boundary – no beginning or end in a linear fashion.

This sort of theory is not universally accepted, by any means, but new theories rarely are to begin with.  Heliocentrism was originally a hard sell.  The area that we find ourselves in when talking about the conditions around the ‘creation’ of the cosmos is the area of quantum mechanics, and its attempted unification with general relativity[11].  Without getting too bogged down with science, one such theory that offers to unify the two is Loop Quantum Gravity, which seeks to reappraise either gravity or geometry.  This mathematical and predictive theory is at the forefront of modern cosmology.  The core characteristic, for the point of this argument, is the idea that it replaces the Big Bang (and its singularity) with a Big Bounce.  This theory has received recent (2007) mathematical correlation from Martin Bojowald at Pennsylvania State University, by ‘solving’ time before the Big Bang (a notoriously problematic noltion), thus supporting Big Bounce theories[12].  Big Bounce theories assert that the universe operates cyclically, that every Big Bang is preceded by a collapse of the previous universe.

My point here is to make it clear that it is simply fallacious to state with any kind of certitude that the Big Bang singularity was the beginning of this one and only universe, and the beginning of time (created ex nihilo by a Creator).  To invoke cosmology as a saving grace in this context is a little selective.  Though I have only mentioned two, there are plenty of other alternatives.  Furthermore, there is no way of being able to apply a probability of one alternative over another.  In effect, agnosticism should constrain us from being able to assert premise 2 of the KCA, especially considering the weakness of premise 1.  I would also tend towards the notion that, even given God’s supposed omnipotence, it is still incoherent that God could produce anything ex nihilo.  There is something inherently, and intuitively problematic about the whole process of creation ex nihilo that I find hard to swallow[13].  Adolf Grünbaum, writing in the journal Philosophy of Science, masterfully sums up this dilemma:


Therefore, if creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) is beyond human understanding, then the hypothesis that it occurred cannot explain anything. Even less can it then be required to fill explanatory gaps that exist in scientific theories of cosmogony. Indeed, it seems to me that if something literally passes all understanding, then nothing at all can be said or thought about it by humans. As Wittgenstein said: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Dogs, for example, do not bark about relativity theory. Thus, any supposed hypothesis that literally passes all understanding is simply meaningless to us, and it certainly should not inspire a feeling of awe. To stand in awe before an admittedly incomprehensible hypothesis is to exhibit a totally misplaced sense of intellectual humility! It is useless to reply to this conclusion by saying that the creation hypothesis may be intelligible to "higher beings" than ourselves, if there are such. After all, it is being offered to us as a causal explanation![14]


However, as philosopher Wes Morriston states[15], given that the ‘Greatest Conceivable Being’ would be one that could create ex nihilo, the idea of whether God can possibly create anything ex nihilo becomes an argument over conceivability

God is often planted into the First Cause gap as an axiom at which all regression can safely come to rest.  Causality implies that an event, as Premise 1 of the KCA would suggest, has a (preceding) cause.  The preceding cause would need its own preceding cause ad infinitum; and we cannot have an infinite regress.  Enter stage left God, who, being eternally existent, bypasses all rules of causality.  However, for someone who is agnostic, it seems no more implausible to posit an eternally existing universe (in one form or another) to bypass this kind of causality, than an eternally existing God.  Moreover, we could invoke Occam’s Razor again to suggest that God is a further, unnecessary explanatory layer, and a more complex one at that[16].  Bojowald and his Big Bounce theory postulates that time ‘restarts’ at every Big Bang, and thus terms such as ‘preceding cause’ and ‘infinite regress’ become incoherent.  As Bofowald himself says in Scientific American:


The universe, in short, has a tragic case of forgetfulness. It may have existed before the big bang, but quantum effects during the bounce wiped out almost all traces of this prehistory.[17]


The explanatory gap that was once filled by God in an answer to problems of infinite regression can now plausibly be filled with modern cosmology, it seems.  Rather than coming to the support of theistic arguments, it appears that cosmology can equally be employed by those of atheistic persuasion. 

Many theistic scholars propose the idea that the universe we live in, irrespective of its beginning, appears to be finely-tuned for life.  In the last century, with our scientific advancements, it is claimed that the many physical constants that inform the fabric of this universe are so precise and particular, that it seems incredibly unlikely to have happened by chance, or without the guiding touch of a designing Creator.  As Craig states:


When one mentally assigns different values to these constants or forces, one discovers that in fact the number of observable universes, that is to say, universes capable of supporting intelligent life, is very small. Just a slight variation in any one of these values would render life impossible.[18]


And yet, given that this is true (and there is much to be argued about this), the point is rendered impotent in light of the possibility that this universe, with its highly unlikely combination of physical constants, might be one of an infinite number of universes, with different physical laws.  Given an infinite number of universes, it then becomes likely that there will be (at least) one bearing life-permitting physical constants.  An infinite number of universes (sometimes call the Ultimate Ensemble) is a theory that has been gathering momentum.  Although evidence (in the case of Max Tegmark[19]) for a multiverse is predominantly mathematically theoretical, there are some glimmers of tangible evidence.  The National Geographic[20] reported Kashlinksy et al[21] as claiming that the sinister sounding ‘dark flow’ in the universe “can't be explained by current models for distribution of mass in the universe. So the researchers made the controversial suggestion that the clusters are being tugged on by the gravity of matter outside the known universe.”  What they are suggesting is that other universes may well be having a gravitational effect on our universe, particularly with regards to dark flow.  Dark flow is a phenomenon found in 2008 that describes the motion of clusters of galaxies in the context of cosmic background microwave radiation.  These clusters of stars are moving both directionally and at a speed that cannot be accounted for within our current understanding.  In an interview to Discovery News, Kashlinsky said of his discoveries, “At this point we don't have enough information to see what it is, or to constrain it. We can only say with certainty that somewhere very far away the world is very different than what we see locally. Whether it's 'another universe' or a different fabric of space-time we don't know.”[22]   This data has since been further supported[23].  Cosmic gaps, dark flow, and other cosmological anomalies that are pushing the boundaries of science and understanding offer many opportunities for theories such as multiverse theories to hold credibility.  Again, we see that rather than adding credibility and authority to theistic arguments, modern cosmology is potentially creating a headache for theists who seek to use it to their advantage. 

One of the more recent adaptations to a traditional argument[24] has been the argument from fine-tuning.  This argument states that the combination of incredibly precise constants, and the supposedly tiny probability of life existing, infers that the universe has been fine-tuned for life by a Creator.  It is true that there are many physicists, such as Paul Davies, who believe that the incredibly delicate balance of physical constants do indeed point to fine-tuning for life, and even for the existence of matter at all.  The argument, though, is not so simple.  It can be argued that the probability of a non-divinely created universe is 100%.  If one assumes that there is no God, and we do have life, then the probability of life in the universe is 1.  As Victor Stenger, American particle physicist, points out:

… we can empirically estimate the probability that a universe will have life. We know of one universe, and that universe has life, so the "measured" probability is 100 percent, albeit with a large statistical uncertainty. This rebuts a myth that has appeared frequently in the design literature … that only a multiple-universe scenario can explain the coincidences without a supernatural creator (Swinburne, 1990). Multiuniverses are certainly a possible explanation, but a multitude of other, different universes is not the sole naturalistic explanation available for the particular structure of our universe.[25]


 One of the next points to make is that it is fallacious to assume that our type of carbon-based life is the only type of life that can exist.  This “carboncentrism” is debated amongst physicists, with many, such as Victor Stenger, insisting that silicon-based life (or similar elementally-based life) are theoretically viable[26].  The existence of life is a very different ballgame to ‘life-as-we-know-it’, especially when concerning the construction of probabilities.  Moreover, in June 2010, two reports based on data from a NASA spacecraft (Cassini) claimed that a likely explanation for complex chemical activity on Titan, a moon of Saturn, was that there was methane based life, rather than oxygen based life[27].  If this is the case, what other types of life might exist in the far reaches of our massive cosmos?  The probabilities of life existing in our cosmos are then drastically reduced.   

Next, it is impossible to know that, with a combination of constants with different values, life would not exist.  The very adaptability of life could mean that a very different sort of life might exist in a very different sort of universe / existence.   Atomic nuclei, for example, could react in a very different manner under changed constant values, and could be able to assemble into molecular structures, which they struggle to do so easily in this universe.

One methodological contradiction often exhibited by theists revolves around the congeniality of the universe to life.  Theists will argue that the universe is so finely-balanced to afford life that it clearly shows that the universe is designed with life in mind.  The earth, for example, is just right for life – not too hot, not too cold (why we are called the Goldilocks planet at times).  The earth, and thus the cosmos, seems congenial to life, and as such, has all the hallmarks of a Creator.  However, on the other hand, the universe seems a very unlikely place to promote life, that it is so extraordinarily hostile and improbable in terms of a naturalistic explanation, that God must surely have been responsible.  There is an uneasy contradiction existing with the two approaches here. 

Furthermore, if the universe was fine-tuned for life, especially if humans were the apex of creation, then it seems irrational that we are living on a knife-edge, that life seems to be so unlikely, and conditions so inhospitable, that our very existence hangs in the balance.  We are one big meteorite away from lights out.  This, then, does not make a finely-tuned universe by God a likely scenario.  If it is a fine-tuned universe, then with common understandings of God, one would expect it to be the best possible universe.  And yet, evidence would suggest that it is not, with our knife-edge existence, the amount of suffering and death, the ease with which viruses and bacteria and predators can exist, and the scarcity of important resources.  For these reasons, it seems appropriate to think that cosmology doesn’t necessarily support theistic arguments for the existence of God.

One incredibly interesting (and oftentimes confusing) subject within the sphere of physics is time.  It is worth mentioning these modern approaches to the theory of time, and how they relate to physics (due to the repercussions they have on theology) and, in particular, notions of a personal god.  Time is a concept that falls under the auspices of cosmology, and, as such, is a welcome contribution to this essay.  Recently, there has been growing support amongst physicists for an interpretation of time that is somewhat counter-intuitive, and yet that works more coherently with the existing laws of physics than our traditional notion.  Traditionally, we see time as a linear idea, such that it is “represented by a single, straight, non-branching, continuous line that extends without end in each of its two directions. This is the “standard topology” for time.”[28]  On the standard interpretation (such as by Craig) of the Big Bang, the line would start at the initial singularity, and would progress in a linear fashion from thereon.  Most people would then see, at any point in time, events in the past as past facts, events in the present as fact, and events in the future as potential facts, such that the only objects that exist are present ones (a position also known as presentism).  This interpretation, with everything in relation to the present, is called the A-Theory of time[29] as according to J.M.E. McTaggart in his famous 1908 paper The Unreality of Time.  The B-Theory of time only sees time as a positional relationship between two events, such that X happened 2 days before Y.  It is the B-Theory of time which is seemingly becoming more attractive to philosophers and physicists alike[30] where time does not really pass, but that one event is earlier than another, and any idea that it does is simply a factor of human perception.  Commonly, this argument can be summarised as one of tense, with B-Theorists believing that there is no such thing as tense, as past, present and future. 

Physics enters the fray in the form of special relativity which dictates that no two events can be absolutely simultaneous, which means that the ‘arrow of time’ that we perceive cannot objectively be true.  This arrow of time that is part and parcel of the A-Theory is often re-interpreted under the B-Theory, in conjunction with modern physics, to be understood as a real dimension, such as space, and thus the universe can be seen as a ‘Block Universe’, and we have ‘Block Time’.  Space-time is seen as a four-dimensional block in and of itself, rather than being a three-dimensional block modulated by time.  Under block time, all moments of time are considered equally real.  Thus, future events are as real as present ones, which means that they are determined: set in stone.  As Vlatko Vedral, Professor of Quantum Information Science at the University of Leeds, says:


According to Einstein the universe actually exists all at once, and everything that has happened and will happen is already there in what we now call the “block universe”. All the future instances of time are already laid out on a line in a four-dimensional block-like reality, as far as general relativity is concerned. Einstein is famously quoted as saying that any change with passage of time is merely “an illusion, albeit a persistent one”. This is full determinism at its best.[31]


Granted that quantum physics itself gives many a scientist the opportunity to throw uncertainty or randomness into the equation, but it really depends on what interpretation of quantum physics you adhere to (and ironically, in this, there is a large amount of uncertainty!).  The Bohm interpretation, for example, is entirely deterministic (of which Einstein himself was a proponent).

Why is this view of the block universe important in the context of this paper?  If one posits God as an explanatory mechanism in areas for which we presently have little or no explanation or enough understanding (in a God-of-the-Gaps fashion), then it is important that the God posited is seen in the light of what we do know, or at least think we know.  And if the universe in which you might be able to shoehorn God happens to be a deterministic one (here defined by the qualities of a four dimensional block), then the notion of the theistic and personal God which is so often evoked becomes either meaningless, or at the very least, entirely different. 

After all, it is one thing to position God into the equation, and another to claim that he possesses the characteristics that are so often claimed of him (omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence) or that we possess qualities that are necessitated by this personal God (free will).  Although this may not seem relevant to the question at hand, since we are debating whether God can and should be used as an ontological explanation, and not what characteristics God has, I think that it does play an important part.  Firstly, if one is to use science, such as special relativity, to argue for God in the context of fine-tuning of the universe, then they must be ready to accept its consequences when considering time.

Secondly, many people who weigh up the arguments for God start off with the notion that God has (usually at least) these three core characteristics.  These add a certain plausibility and attractiveness to the cumulative argument for God, and often (given the choice of God or no God) act as a persuasive carrot dangling down in front of a would-be agnostic.  However, if we know that God is not omnibenevolent, or that we do not have free will, does the persuasiveness of theistic arguments become somewhat diminished?  I can’t help but think that the position becomes weakened, that knowing these characteristics as being incoherent, or knowing that we effectively have no free will, means that the plausibility for a naturalistic cosmological explanation to fill these gaps becomes all the greater.  For example, to return to issues of a First Causer for the universe, if we were to have a choice between and eternally existing God being the initial causer of the universe, or an eternally existing universe, then one may be more inclined to settle for God creating the universe.  This might be done, for instance, on the grounds that one might find the standard Big Bang singularity more convincing.  However, if science is telling you that were live in a deterministic universe, and that this is essentially incoherent with (most) notions of God, then it suddenly becomes more plausible (cumulatively) that the eternally existing universe is the correct explanation of causality. 

As an analogy, imagine a local horse went missing, and we had two theories to account for this.  One was that it had simply run off by itself, and the other was that it had been eaten by an escaped animal from the local zoo.  Now, given that the horse was well loved, and loved its owners, one could find it more plausible that the escaped animal had devoured it.  However, if we then found out that the characteristic of that escaped animal was that it was vegetarian, and all members of its species were clearly vegetarian, then plausibility straight away swings back to the horse having run away.  Thus, the characteristics of entities have a huge impact on whether they can be utilised as explanations for phenomena. 

Therefore, to conclude, I would say that the certainty with which theists wield cosmology and physics is not only ill-placed, but also highly selective.  To return to the musings of Wes Morriston:


…since almost everything connected with the Big Bang theory is highly speculative, it would be a grave mistake to draw from it any firm conclusions about the cause(s) of the Big Bang. Deriving any conclusion from the Big Bang theory about the truth or falsity of classical theism is premature at best.[32]


I would certainly agree with that opinion in light of what I have mentioned here.  What I have shown is that there are understandings of physics that render a theistic God both unnecessary and incoherent.  I claim that, instead of being an ally of theists, modern cosmology can just as easily be pitted against theism.  It should not be a case of using science when it best suits you, and cherry-picking theories, but a case of looking at the spectrum of theories, and seeing them in a holistic context.  For example, special relativity may work for a theist in the argument from fine-tuning, but how does it cohere with notions of time?  Rather than filling the gaps in theistic arguments, cosmology can exacerbate them.  I am not claiming that any of the theories that I have mentioned are true, but that it is very “premature” to have a worldview that rests on cosmological theory when deciphering the truth value of any given theory is a risky business.  Putting your money on theism seems as risky as putting your money on atheism.  At the very least, I would declare that agnosticism is a wise (and should be the default) choice in this ever-changing and fascinating field.






[1] Pyrrho of Elis was one of the first proponents of scepticism, later to be heralded by the likes of Sextus Empiricus.  In its most radical of forms, such as Sextus Empiricus would claim, it advises one to refrain from making any truth claim, that one should remain agnostic about anything and everything.  If one  adopted the position that truth itself is impossible, the position would become untenable in light of the self-refuting truth claim.

[2]William Lane Craig,  http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html (6/6/2010)

[3] Naturalism being the worldview that all of reality can be explained by nature, or science, and it does not call upon the supernatural as an explanation for anything (whether this be the paranormal, the spiritual, or God).

[4] whereby the simplest most plausible explanation is preferable that does not posit unnecessary assumptions or explanatory layers

[5] Admittedly, there is a difficulty of finding physical evidence for a mental dimension.  However, there are other issues that can cast doubt upon a non-physical dimension, such as how the mental interacts with the physical (interactionism), what the mechanisms in the brain are for this, and where they are located, and how the non-physical dimension can ‘energise’ a physical dimension, thus contradicting the law of conservation of energy.

[6] Réné Déscartes famously proposed his version that the mind and body are separate entities, separating the mind (consciousness) from the brain.

[7]William Lane Craig, http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html (6/6/2010)

[8]“If we extrapolate [back in time], we reach a point where all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe… For this reason 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.” - Paul Davies, “Spacetime singularities in cosmology” in J.T. Fraser (ed.), The Study of Time III, pages 78-79.

[9] Many criticisms are too complex for a paper such as this, but such examples would include: spacetime not necessarily being infinitely divisible (if it can be quantised into discrete units, then Davies’ assumptions are invalid);

[10] “Imaginary Time” from The Routledge Companion to the New Cosmology. ISBN: 0-203-16457-1. Published: 2003–03–27. ©2009 Taylor and Francis, http://www.bookrags.com/tandf/imaginary-time-tf/#p2000591e8830223001 (11/06/2010)

[11] Many physicists are devoting their efforts to find a way of unifying quantum physics, the behaviour of matter in the microscopic world, with general relativity, the behaviour of matter on the macroscopic world, as matter does not seem to be regulated by the same rules in each situation.

[12]  Bojowald, Martin (2007). "What happened before the Big Bang?". Nature Physics 3 (8): 523–525 (http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/v3/n8/abs/nphys654.html 28/-6/2010)

[13] Some theologians are starting to doubt the Judeo-Christian God creating the universe ex nihilo from biblical exegesis.  There is evidence within Genesis that a primordial chaos pre-existed, and God manipulated this matter and energy to reform the universe and create life.  This radically alters notions of ex nihilo creation within this context, and turns it into a transformative creation.

[14] Adolf Grünbaum, “The Pseudo-Problem of Creation in Physical Cosmology,” Philosophy of Science vol. 56, no. 3 (1989): 373–394

[15] Wes Morriston, “Creation ex Nihilo and the Big Bang”, Philo Vol. 5, No.1, ,http://www.philoonline.org/library/morriston_5_1.htm (03/07/2010)

[16] Assuming that something that is responsible for creating the universe is more complex than the universe itself.

[17] Martin Bojowald, Big Bang or Big Bounce?: New Theory on the Universe's Birth, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=big-bang-or-big-bounce (02/07/2010)

[19] Cosmologist Max Tegmark has proposed four levels of mutliverse that could exist.  http://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/multiverse.pdf  (08/07/2010)

[21]A. Kashlinsky et al, (2010), The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 712, Number 1  http://iopscience.iop.org/2041-8205/712/1/L81 (28/06/2010)

[23]This phenomena has since been observed to operate at twice the initial speed thought in 2008, so that entire clusters of stars are moving at an astonishing million miles an hour.  This data (2010) has actually answered the criticisms levelled at the initial 2008 data. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100310162829.htm 05/07/2010) reporting from A. Kashlinsky, F. Atrio-Barandela, H. Ebeling, A. Edge, and D. Kocevski. A New Measurement of the Bulk Flow of X-Ray Luminous Clusters of Galaxies. The Astrophysical Journal, 2010; 712 (1): L81 DOI:

[24] Teleological Argument or Argument from Design

[25]Victor Stenger, University of Colorado, “Is The Universe Fine-tuned For Us?” http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Cosmo/FineTune.pdf (08/07/2010)

[26] A philosophical discussion about what denotes life, and whether Artificial Intelligence, being silicon-based, could be construed as life might be a worthwhile aside here.

[27] Clark, R. N., et al. Detection and Mapping of Hydrocarbon Deposits on Titan. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2010; (in press) DOI: 10.1029/2009JE003369

[28]As the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy would have it. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time/ (25/06/2010)

[29] Or A series, A properties, A relations and other such dynamic labels.

[32] Wes Morriston, “Creation ex Nihilo and the Big Bang”, Philo Vol. 5, No.1  

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