In part one we looked at the arguments advanced by Professor Radisson, now we come to the arguments Josh put forward as he took the floor.
The first argument Josh talked about is called the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God. This comes in many different versions, all of which have interesting aspects. Yet all of them have in common the idea of a first cause, particularly of the Universe. Common questions along these lines are, “Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did everything come from? What caused this or that thing to happen?” With any one thing of which a person might ask these questions, most of the time the same question can be asked about the answer just given.
Where did these chips come from?
Where did the potatoes come from?
The potato farm. Etc.
The idea here is much like a row of dominoes that have been set up and subsequently knocked down.
What knocked over this domino?
The domino before it.
And what knocked over that domino?
The domino before it.
But what knocked over the first domino? This becomes the really important question. When dealing with the Universe, the question is, what started the Universe off? The answer is God. “Wait, that seems too easy,” you might say. Someone may ask, as one young lady did in the movie, “Who created God?” This brings up a really important question, “If everything has a cause, then what caused God.” The answer put forward by Josh, though stated quickly and simply, is a powerful one. “Christians don’t believe in a created God.” Here is a more in depth version of that idea.
Everything either has to come from or be caused by something else, or it can simply exist out of its own nature. These two types of objects are called contingent and necessary. Contingent things depend on something else (think contingency plan) for there existence. Necessary things must be because existence is part of the construction of their very being. In other words they must exist. In this case, Christians claim God is a necessary being. God simply exists. God never began to exist, therefore God has no creator.
Still the skeptic may say, “This is all well and good, but what makes you think such a being actually exists?” Since contingent things cannot bring themselves into existence, either some other contingent thing or a necessary thing must bring them into existence. If all things were contingent, there would be nothing to bring those things into existence, so because contingent things do exist we know something that is necessary must exist. Since contingent things do not simply come into existence, the only options are eternal nothingness, or a necessary being that has existed eternally. God is that thing.
This is an interesting video from John Lennox (one of the people Josh gave a stinger of a quote from in the movie) about the question “Who created God?” http://youtu.be/440uw540idM
If you will recall, in the movie Professor Radisson quotes the famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking in response to the arguments Josh explains. Stephen Hawking claims that the Universe could create itself. From the quote spoken by the professor, Hawking seems to be saying, since gravity exists, it is inevitable that the Universe would come into existence from nothing. As a side note, I find it very refreshing that Josh responded by saying, “I don’t know,” and then proceeded to study the question further, rather than making up some wrong response on the spot to try to save face. When Josh comes back for the next class period, he claims the idea Hawking puts forward is circular, which is in fact a major problem with this idea. Gravity is a part of the Universe, so how could it bring the Universe into existence? This would be much like a person saying that their own arm brought them into existence. Since your arm is a part of you, you would have to exist in order to bring yourself into existence. This is indeed a circular argument, and is fallacious. Also, the idea that gravity brought the Universe into existence contradicts the statement that the Universe came from nothing, because gravity is not nothing, it is something. Even if it is the case that gravity brought the Universe into existence, it only moves the problem back one step when we must ask, where did gravity come from?
Often those who discuss the beginning of the Universe will say it came from nothing, but by nothing they do not mean a complete lack of anything, they mean something and just call that something “nothing.” There is a pretty important principal that says, “ex nihilo, nihilo fit,” which simply means, from nothing, nothing comes. If there is truly nothing, what can come from that? Plain and simply, nothing! This makes the possibility of the Universe popping into existence out of nothing an impossibility.
It seems Hawking has made quite the philosophical blunder, which is a bit ironic considering his idea that philosophy is dead or of no use, as Josh quotes in the movie. In response the professor asks whether it be possible that a college freshman be right and Hawking be wrong. My answer is, absolutely! While Hawking is brilliant, he is not inerrant. For more on Hawking, and discussion about how Hawking’s theory does in fact require a beginning, listen to this podcast by Dr. William Lane Craig. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/Stephen-Hawking-in-the-News
The next argument Josh put forward was from biology. There is an argument for the existence of God called the Teleological Argument, more commonly known as an argument from design, but the arguments Josh put forward were not design arguments in the common understanding of those types of argument, which is usually an argument that compares complicated designed objects to nature and concludes both were designed. Josh’s arguments focused on the origin of two different things in biology: the origin of life itself and what is known as the Cambrian Explosion.
Throughout the years many have attempted to come up with a way that life could have arisen naturally. Time and time again those theories have run up against difficulties and most have outright failed. This combined with the fact that the statistical analysis of life coming about by itself are staggering (I will spare you, and myself, the mathematical details, but if you are interested in them look at the book Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) shows the idea of a natural beginning for life are not good at all, if not impossible.
Next, Josh claims the amount of diversity and complexity of the creatures on Earth seemed to explode, essentially overnight on an evolutionary timescale. A main focus of the investigation into this phenomena has been by looking at a layer of the Earth called the Cambrian. Before the Cambrian, only simply creatures are found, yet the Cambrian itself has many different types of creatures, including every major phyla, with many diverse body plans. This is what has been referred to as the Cambrian Explosion, because it happened so fast. Since such change according to the traditional evolutionary theory is supposed to take place over long periods of time, this information casts doubt on the idea of a natural origin for those creatures, and instead points toward the best explanation being an intelligent creator. For more information on this see another book by Stephen C. Meyer called Darwin’s Doubt.
We have now opened to box and peered inside at some of the details of Josh’s first and second speeches. In part three we will talk about his final time before the class where he discusses morality and the problem of evil.