How did the universe come to be? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
At the start, Mills is asking if the origin of the universe is natural or supernatural. The problem is, he never defines these terms. As readers of this blog know, I have a great problem with this kind of classification. If natural becomes just whatever happens if there is no outside interference, the fact that there is any kind of order I find to be something that needs to be explained.
This starts with the discovery of the background radiation that led to the Big Bang Theory. What is not said is that at the start, many atheistic scientists were opposed to the idea of the Big Bang Theory. After all, if the universe had a beginning, then that would lead to the idea that it had a beginner. It’s a wonder why Mills never mentions this.
He does at least quote the philosopher Mortimer Adler with this great question of “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Unfortunately, from here, he goes on to the first cause argument. Again, he gets it wrong:
The traditional First Cause argument goes as follows: We observe in the universe a Law of Cause-Effect. Everything requires a cause to account for its existence. Each cause, in turn, is itself an effect that demands a preceding causal antecedent. If, therefore, we regress indefinitely through this chain of causation, we would ultimately arrive at a First Cause, to Whom we give the name “God.” Historically, secular-minded philosophers countered the First Cause argument by asking, “What caused God?” When churchmen responded that “God always existed,” secularists usually offered two points of rebuttal: 1) If we can suppose that God always existed, then why not suppose instead that physical matter always existed? After all, this non-supernatural assumption is far simpler than presupposing a highly complex series of Divine Creation miracles; 2) The ecclesiastical argument—that God always existed—contradicts the original premise of the First Cause argument—that the “Law of Cause-Effect” can be consistently applied. If everything except God is governed by the “Law of Cause-Effect,” then the First Cause argument becomes ad hoc and therefore logically impermissible. In other words, we’re right back where we started, having advanced neither our logical arguments nor our understanding of universal causation.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 68-69). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Historically, no secular-minded people argued this way against the church because no one in the church argued that way at all. Of course, Mills doesn’t cite a single person who made this argument. As to why it couldn’t be physical matter, a theist could accept that matter could be eternal, but still need a cause because in Thomistic philosophy, it is matter and thus inherently has potential. Whatever is ultimate has to be pure actuality.
It’s interesting that he next refers to the work of Newton and Mendel. There is no mention that Newton was a theist, though a Unitarian one, or that Mendel was a Christian monk. This is important since Mills consistently treats faith as an impediment to science, when if anything, it was a boon to it.
Mills goes on to say:
Likewise, it is absurd to state that the laws of physics, which are likewise written accounts of human observation, cause the outcome of the observed phenomena. Creationists loathe to admit that physical laws are human in origin.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 70). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
I am unsure what Mills means here when he says that physical laws are human in origin. If he means their reality, then they are not human in origin in the sense that these laws existed before any human discovered them. If he means the formulation of them, then they are definitely human in origin, with the understanding that they are discovered. I don’t know of any one who is a “creationist” who is “loathe” to state that.
By the way, this is something consistent in the book. Mills never defines what a creationist is. For instance, I am someone who is open to evolution and have no problem with an old Earth or the Big Bang Theory, yet by Mills’s standards, I think I would be seen as a creationist. Yet at other times, he speaks of creationists as people who necessarily believe in a young-Earth.
So when the term comes up, I am unsure what he means.
So what about Adler’s question? Mills returns to it saying:
Adler’s question, however—“Why is there something, rather than nothing?”—assumes that there is supposed to be nothing: that the “natural” state of the universe is nonexistence. The fact that there obviously is something, then, is viewed by Adler as a miracle requiring a supernatural explanation. The perceived “mystery” of Adler’s question lies, not in a supernatural answer, but in his presumptive formulation of the question itself. Adler’s question is similar to presuming that grass is supposed to be red, then claiming that its undeniably green color is evidence that a Divine miracle has occurred. From a scientific perspective, though, the question is: Why shouldn’t there be something rather than nothing? What law of science claims that the universe is not supposed to exist, or that nonexistence is the “natural” condition of the universe? There is no such law. On the contrary, the law of the conservation of mass-energy leads to a radically different conclusion: that the mass-energy which now constitutes our universe always existed, though the universe, as we observe it today, did indeed have a beginning at the Big Bang.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 75-76). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
No. Adler’s question is the correct one. Why is there something that a law can even apply to? Science only works once there is something, but for the question of what would happen otherwise, it has nothing to say. Mills is not beginning to even attempt the metaphysical question of existence. It is quite likely, he has no clue about such a question.
Later on, Mills gives us this gem:
Many pre-Renaissance scholars thought it was common sense that the Earth was flat and motionless.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 79). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
It is not a shock that Mills cites no such scholars. There are two good reasons. First, Mills hasn’t done any historical research and just believes atheist arguments on faith. The second is that these scholars don’t exist.
Now to get to a point I made prior, order in the universe is something that needs to be explained. Why is there a consistency between A and B? Why is it when I put a glass of water in the microwave and turn it on for half an hour, that it gets hot? Why does it not get cold or turn to diamonds or gain sentience?
If at the root of the universe there is chaos and accidents with no order at its origin or start, then why should we expect order to show up in it? Why should I expect an accidental universe to be orderly? Mills never answers this.
At this point, I am not surprised.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)