Skeptics and believers agree that the universe demonstrates remarkable order. It operates according to a set of exquisitely fine-tuned laws that create an environment fit for human life. Even a minor change to any one of these laws would have prevented life from ever arising. The life that emerged in this universe is information-based, operating pursuant to the DNA blueprint that builds and sustains it. Information, we recognize intuitively, is the product of intelligence. Instruction manuals that explain how to build something to achieve a purpose do not self-assemble; they do not just appear. They must be written by intelligent actors for others to read and follow. There is no good reason to believe that the most complex “manual” ever created just appeared, simply because “enough time” has gone by.
When believers point to God to explain the existence of something from nothing, and order from randomness, the skeptic will often respond with a question: “Then who created God?” As one skeptic put it:
Something must account for that order. But your answer, God, is simply the acceptance of an immensely, probably infinitely greater amount of Order without question. Thus, you have not answered your question of “whence the order we see”, but merely made it bigger and unquestionable.
Though not phrased in the usual fashion, the question is the same: “Then who created God?”
A moment’s reflection will demonstrate the category error that is at play. The skeptic is asking, in essence, “Who created the uncreated eternal Creator?” The question is nonsensical, demonstrating only that the skeptic’s understanding of God is not what it should be. When God is invoked as the explanation for the universe, it is not in the sense of some superhero from a cartoon, or some ancient “god” who possessed specific powers. “God” refers to the conception the mind reaches when it seeks to answer the question: “What would provide an adequate explanation for what we find here?”
Specifically, what we find is that the universe had a starting point, at which both matter/energy and time began. That’s why it’s referred to as a time-space continuum. We find that the universe is operating in conformance to specific rules that govern function. It appears to be operating the way a sophisticated machine does, like a timepiece that has intricate parts. The life that exists in it arises because a set of billions of instructions is followed to take inanimate things and build them into greater, living things, composed of complex interconnected systems, with the ability to metabolize other things to provide fuel to live. And, most amazingly, for one such built “thing” – man – a mind emerges that is capable of thought, reason, emotion and, most importantly, imagination.
What the believer concludes from this seems obvious: the creator must have immense power and intelligence. He must be volitional and logical. And perhaps most relevant to the skeptic’s point, he must exist outside of time; he must be eternal. He must be the only being that has always existed, who did not himself pop into existence at a point in time. In other words, the skeptic quoted above is correct to ask, in essence, “What came before?” Each thing we see must have preceding it a cause, an explanation, which is adequate to the result. When I contemplate the functioning of a complex computer, I realize that the great amount of information and complexity that it contains must be explained by a source that is adequate. It would be foolishness to conclude that it simply emerged from simpler computers over the course of time, even if I could discern within it a program that allowed it to “learn” or develop as time went by. No, I would have to conclude that something with intelligence and a purpose built the computer, because no other explanation is consistent with reason.
Could the universe have been created by something other than God? Perhaps some powerful being that created for a reason but was himself created? Yes, and for such a being, the question would be appropriate, who created him? But eventually one must reach a starting point. There cannot be an infinite regression of creation events unless one is willing to accept the conclusion that “nothing” created something. But that cannot be, at least not consistent with reason. It is a contradiction, no different than saying that square-circles once existed.
This may not seem obvious at first glance. Readers may picture in their minds the vast emptiness of space and wonder why something could not emerge from that. But this picture is itself mistaken, because the vast “spaces” would themselves be something. And we all intuitively realize that building blocks like atoms exist even when we cannot see them. The idea that a cloud can form from “thin air” is roughly similar. But this picture is not a picture of “nothing.” No, “nothing” means the absence of anything. There are no building blocks, visible or invisible. There is no “stuff” at all. Simply put, there is nothing there from which something could appear. Moving backward, there must come a point in which an infinite, eternal being of limitless power and intelligence is acting. Or, we must abandon reason altogether and conclude that it can no longer guide us in reaching conclusions. But we cannot rationally hold to a view that life, order, complexity emerge from the absolute vacuum of nothingness.
The skeptic quoted above insists that this is no solution at all. He contends that the original problem remains: if order exists on an increasing scale, then what provided God his “order.” This, too, reflects a category error. The type of order reflected in nature is the type of order that physical things display. Created things are composed of interconnected parts that function together for a purpose. The mind, by contrast, is not a physical thing, however much it is connected to the brain. The mind operates not on working parts but on ideas or concepts, which can eventually be translated or made into working parts. While the mind does reflect “order,” it is of a different type. By an “ordered” mind, we mean clarity of thought, not the number of parts that fit together. Thus an aircraft carrier and a mind both reflect order, but one is a created physical thing and the other is something quite different.
There is simply no good reason to believe that the Creator must have working parts, like his creation does. The skeptic’s implication that all ordered things must be made by things possessing greater order is nothing more than an unsupported assumption. The Creator of this universe must be adequate to the task; he must possess the level of intelligence and power needed to create and he must exist in a way that is not limited by space and time.
Why does any of this matter, some may ask? Quite simply because it makes no sense to seek God when one is convinced he does not exist. And seeking God, the believer realizes, is what life here is really all about.
Posted by Al Serrato