The fire in the equation

Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.

~ Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time.

Following from yesterday's post, I thought of this quote from Steven Hawking, that I really like. For it is not just the undeniable order in the Universe that the atheist cannot get round, but the fact that there is a Universe at all! I read A Brief History of Time when it came out, back in the late '80s and really appreciated the irony in this quote. Here was a man who had tried his hardest to provide a consistent scientific model for the Universe that removed any need for a creator. He set off to find the Grand Unification Theory, the equation for everything, the one equation to rule them all - yet he discovered in one rare moment of clarity towards the end of the book, that even if man was to ever reach the top of this ladder, he would suddenly have nowhere left to go.

Any scientific theory can only explain what is already there to be explained; it cannot by force of its own logic and reason cause things to work that way. Many scientists forget this fact: the workings of the Universe are not governed by the laws of science, it is the laws of science that are governed by the workings of the Universe. As such, to try to explain scientifically how or why there is a Universe at all is like trying to lift yourself up off the ground - impossible. The questions of origins cannot, not now, not ever, be explained by science; they can only come because the creator chooses to reveal them to us.

No matter how hard you try, you cannot remove God from the equation.


Ricky Carvel said...


I'm afraid that this line of reasoning doesn't lead anywhere. From a reasonably agnostic viewpoint, the options are:

1. There was nothing to begin with, then something came into being. Or,
2. There has always been something in existance.

The problem is that (from the agnostic viewpoint) the something might have been God, but it also might have been something else.

Stephen Hawking's unanswerable question of why there is a universe is matched by the other unanswerable question of why there is a God. As both questions are ultimately unanswerable, then we can't actually get anywhere useful by that line of thinking. Certainly, there is no use in trying this line of reasoning out with non-believers.

Chris HH said...

Hi Ricky, good to hear from you again.

Option 2 isn't really an option, not if you are being scientific (constraining your theories to the known laws of science)

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that total entropy (the amount of disorder) must always increase, and thus the amount of usable energy must always decrease. Over time the entropy in the universe will reach maximum, and the usable energy will reach zero.

However, if the Universe has no beginning it has already been in existence for an infinite amount of time, and so there should be no order or any usable energy left.

The fact that there is order and usable energy, and life - the fact that we are here - shows that, according to all currently known scientific theories, the Universe must have had a beginning. I don't know of any current credible scientific theory that disputes this.

If the Universe had a beginning, then questions about that beginning are very valid.

However, this is a question that science cannot answer, because in order to avoid the infinite state, you need a "primal-cause" - the finger that knocks over the first domino. Since all scientific knowledge and theories are based on our space-time world of cause and effect, we can say nothing scientifically about an effect who had no prior cause, nor about the conditions prior to existence. However, primal-cause there must be, so although science cannot tell us about God, it does lead us right to his door!

The two options are theism - that God is the primal-cause, or atheism - that the Universe itself provided its own primal-cause: a fruit that came from its own seed.

One of these options is entirely logical and consistent, the other is not...

Ricky Carvel said...

Just playing devils advocate here, you understand...

But it all depends on how you define 'the universe' - if the universe is 'all there is' then that (by definition) contains God. If God is contained in the universe then your arguement here falls apart.

The scientific problem with your theory is that you are postulating an entity who is outwith science and upon whom the laws of science have no bearing. That is unscientific thinking!

And just because a scientific theory proposed by Newton several hundred years ago cannot allow for an eternal universe (or an eternal string of universes, or whatever), does not mean that this cannot (one day) be explained by Science.


Being serious though, I've heard so many atheist-theist debates on the issues surrounding the origins of the universe and life, etc., and I don't believe any of them ever wins an atheist over to belief.

The only way to bring the argumentative atheist to belief is to demonstrate that God is a reality in the here and now.

If you can demonstrate that God is a present reality, does it really matter what happened millions or billions of years ago?

Chris HH said...

Hi Ricky, yes I do appreciate that you are putting forward a view that is not your own. I also appreciate that in your job, and contacts in academia you probably come across such hard-nosed atheist scientists who are so entrenched in their constructed worldview that they will never change. Such has always been the way with science. No-one ever likes to have to change their worldview. The Greeks had a great word for such a radical change of thinking: "metanoia". It's the word our bibles' translate as "repentance"

To yield our lives to Christ and put him at the centre of our universe instead of ourselves involves as radical a metanoia, as when Copernicus challenged the model of the Solar System.

However, I imagine the majority of my readers do not hobnob with professors of science, but deal instead with those with little or no scientific training, who nevertheless have bought into the lie that science and faith are incompatible.

I would thus challenge your assertion that a belief in God is unscientific! It was not so for Newton; it was not so for Einstein; it was not so for Maxwell. All of whom felt closer to the mind of God through their study of science, and were some of the greatest scientific minds who have ever lived!

It is only in recent times that the study of science has been abdicated to the atheists. It is they who have redefined the boundaries of science so as to exclude God by their own self-imposed axioms.

You are right though, this line of argument is unlikely to win anyone over. I have many people read my blog who disagree with what I write, sometimes vehemently. I don't know of a single case where one has changed their mind (metanoia) as a result of reading one of my posts. However, I have had plenty of feedback from people saying I have provoked them to re-examine the issues. If I can do that; undermine some of the misguided confidence in the atheistic worldview and cause people to at least think about it. Then for me, as far as I can go on this blog, that is mission accomplished.