April 20, 2019

Cliff's Edge--The Tag Team Cage Fight

Logic and reason are often (if not always) pitted against faith and the supernatural, as if in a tag team cage fight, with reason and logic emerging girded in a gold-studded belt of victory while faith and the supernatural are ignominiously carted off in defeat, bloodied limbs dangling.

That’s the buzz, anyway. Logic, reason, exude certainty, an eternal apriority that’s unquestioned because it needs to be assumed to even ask the questions to begin with. In contrast, faith, the supernatural, are ethereal, fleeting, about as meaty as a wish made over a birthday candle. It’s no wonder (framed in these terms) that faith flees before reason as shade does light, or that reason is bug spray, faith the bug.

Yet this notion is the intellectual equivalent of the urban myth, a taradiddle whose telling and retelling no more makes it true than their telling and retelling do ghost stories. Instead, logic and reason so lead to the existence of God, hence to faith and at least the potential of the supernatural, that it’s atheism and materialism, not faith, which coagulate into absurdity.

And I’m going to prove it.

It comes back to the old question: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” the “something” being the cosmos and its ingredients. Having ruled out deity, atheist naturalists must posit only natural means and ways in order to explain how the universe was concocted. The present popular candidate is the “singularity,” an infinitely dense, infinitely hot, infinitely small (“infinitely large” is hard enough to understand, but “infinitely small”?) something or other that existed for no time. That’s, at least, the scientific dogma.

A few humble queries, if one dare query scientific dogma.

First, how does something, even infinitely small, exist for “no time”? How can existence be separated from time? (Think about it.)Then, assuming that contradiction is answered, How did the singularity first arise, and from whence? Time itself, we’re told, didn’t exist until after the explosion of the singularity, the famous “Big Bang,” so what was there before the Big Bang if there were no “before” the Big Bang to begin with?

Some of the faithful argue that a fluctuation in the quantum foam caused the singularity. The logical question (remember, this column is about logic and reason) would be: Where did the fluctuation in the quantum foam come from? The answer is that nothing created the fluctuation in the quantum foam because the fluctuation in the quantum foam, as one aficionado states, is “nothing . . . just a mathematical probability field. It doesn’t need a cause.”

OK . . .?

I’m not clear on all the doodads that go into a “mathematical probability field,” but if the infinitely dense, infinity hot, infinitely small singularity, and then the entire cosmos (time, space, matter, galaxies, blueberries), all arose from it—then this “mathematical probability field” whatever it is, is not nothing.

The idea of the universe coming out of nothing has been promoted by the eminent atheist Richard Dawkins himself, who declared: “Lawrence Krauss, my colleague, we did a film together called ‘The Unbelievers.’ And he has written a book called A Universe From Nothing. And he produces a physical theory, mathematically worked out, to show that you can get something from nothing. That nothing and nothing in some strange way cancels itself out to produce something. And quantum theory allows that to happen.”

OK . . .?

The notion that “nothing in some strange way cancels itself out to produce something,” i.e., the universe, does strain logic and reason (the issue before us), does it not?  Yes, 0 – 0 = 0, which is not quite the same thing as nothing canceling out nothing, but close enough. Nothing cancelling out itself to produce nothing; that’s reasonable (sort of, anyway; how does nothing cancel out anything, including nothing?). But nothing cancelling itself out to produce everything? Unless the “nothing” that canceled out itself is something after all. But even then, whatever that something is, it must be quite something, because cancelling itself out creates the universe.

British atheist Peter Atkins decided that enough is enough with all this obfuscation and linguistic dilly-dallying regarding the definition of “nothing.” For him nothing is not fluctuations in quantum foam or “a mathematical probability field” or whatever else is passed off as “nothing” when it’s really something. “From now on,” Atkins wrote, “by nothing I shall mean absolutely nothing. I shall mean less than empty space. . . . This Nothing has no space and no time. This Nothing is absolutely nothing. A void devoid of space and time. Utter emptiness. Emptiness beyond emptiness. All that it has, is a name.”

Finally, a “nothing” worthy of the name.

However, according to Atkins, “I want to show that Nothing is the foundation of everything.”

OK . . .?

So, in Peter Atkins cosmogony, nothing, as in “absolutely nothing,” created the universe.

There’s logic and reason (the immediate issue at hand) to his thinking, actually. Having ruled out deity of any kind, such as an eternally existing God—Atkins restored to his only logical option for the creation of the universe: “absolutely nothing.” Why? Because unlike fluctuations in the quantum foam and the like, “absolutely nothing” needs no explanation. There is nothing to explain.

While that’s logical, the question, How, then, did the entire universe arise from nothing? is logical as well. If the idea of the universe arising from nothing, a real nothing (an interesting concept: a real nothing), is as nonsensical as it sounds, then the only other option that doesn’t need an explanation is an eternally existing God, such as the one depicted in Genesis 1 and 2 as having created this world and life on it. After all, if God has always existed, and there never was a time when He didn’t exist, then, like “absolutely nothing,” He needs no explanation.

Then because this God created natural laws, He’s greater than these laws and transcends them; which means that He can act above and outside these laws, such as when Jesus healed a man blind from birth (John 9), or when He multiplied the fish and bread (John 9), or when Peter healed the lame man (Acts 3). Once you posit the existence of God—unless you find the absolutely-nothing-created-the-universe premise more logical—then the reality of miracles, of God simply acting beyond the natural laws that He created, makes perfect sense.

So unless you believe that the universe arose from “absolutely nothing,” nothing is illogical about faith and the supernatural. The tag team cage fight, then, isn’t logic and reason versus faith and the supernatural, but logic and reason versus atheism and naturalism—with logic and reason emerging (again) girded in a gold studded belt of victory while this time atheism and naturalism are ignominiously carted off in defeat, bloodied limbs dangling.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.