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Creation Vs. Evolution: God and Scientific Laws

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Simultaneous Causation

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

In 2011, the renowned atheist, theoretical physicist, and cosmologist of Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, was given a platform to spread his atheistic perspective (“Curiosity…,” 2011). Discovery Channel aired a show titled, “Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” Hawking adamantly claimed, “No.” He claimed that there is no need for God in the picture, since he believes everything in the Universe can be explained without Him (see Miller, 2011a for an in depth response to Hawking’s claims in the show).

Towards the end of the episode, Hawking asserted that “[t]he role played by time at the beginning of the Universe is, I believe, the final key to removing the need for a Grand Designer and revealing how the Universe created itself” (“Curiosity…”). According to Hawking and other atheists, the initial moments of the Big Bang were supposedly similar to the nature of a black hole (see Miller, 2011a for a response to this idea). Hawking believes that due to the nature of a black hole, time would not have existed before the Big Bang. He asserts:

You can’t get to a time before the Big Bang, because there was no before the Big Bang. We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me, this means that there is no possibility for a Creator, because there is no time for a Creator to have existed…. Time didn’t exist before the Big Bang. So, there is no time for God to make the Universe in (“Curiosity…,” emp. added).

So, according to Hawking, there could not have been a cause for the Big Bang since that cause had to temporally precede the effect of the Big Bang, and yet time supposedly did not exist prior to the Big Bang. Setting aside the fact that this theoretical black hole, which is speculated to have been in existence at the time of the alleged Big Bang, had to itself have a cause (according to the Law of Causality even if time did not exist before the bang), Hawking still made a blunder in supposing that a Creator could not exist if time did not exist.

It is a common mistake to oversimplify the Law of Causality, assuming that it states: “Every effect must have an adequate cause which preceded it.” In actuality, the law more correctly states: “Every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause” (see Miller, 2011b for an in depth discussion of the Law of Causality). The Law of Causality as a law of natural science only applies to that which can be empirically observed—namely, the natural Universe (i.e., that which is “material”), not supernatural entities. So, it does not even apply to God. But even if it did apply to the Creator, Hawking’s belief that there’s no room for the Creator since the Law of Causality requires a previous cause—which could not be the case if time did not exist before the Big Bang—is erroneous. Philosopher William Lane Craig explains that this argument rests on a pseudo-dilemma, since the argument does not “consider the obvious alternative that the cause of the [alleged—JM] Big Bang operated at to, that is, simultaneously (or coincidentally) with the Big Bang” (Craig, 1994). Simply put: the Law of Causality allows for simultaneous causes.

When one sits in a seat, his legs form a lap. The effect of creating a lap occurs simultaneously with its cause—the act of sitting—though sitting is obviously the cause of making a lap. So clearly, causes can take place simultaneously with their effects. Renowned German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, in his book, The Critique of Pure Reason, under the heading, “Principle of the Succession of Time According to the Law of Causality: All changes take place according to the law of the connection of Cause and Effect,” explains that, “The principle of the connection of causality among phenomena…applies also when the phenomena exist together in the same time, and that cause and effect may be simultaneous” (Kant, 1787, I.3.3.2.3.3, emp. added). He then proceeds to provide two examples of simultaneous causation, the first being the scenario in which the effect of a heated room occurs simultaneous with its cause—a fire in the fireplace. He explains that, “In this case, then, there is no succession as regards time, between cause and effect, but they are simultaneous; and still the law holds good” (I.3.3.2.3.3). He then provides the example in which a lead ball lies on a cushion and simultaneously causes the effect of an indention or “hollow” in the cushion. Again, the effect occurs simultaneously with its cause. Kant explains:

The greater part of operating causes in nature are simultaneous with their effects, and the succession in time of the latter is produced only because the cause cannot achieve the total of its effect in one moment. But at the moment when the effect first arises, it is always simultaneous with the causality of its cause, because, if the cause had but a moment before ceased to be, the effect could not have arisen…. The time between the causality of the cause and its immediate effect may entirely vanish, and the cause and effect be thus simultaneous, but the relation of the one to the other remains always determinable according to time (Kant, 1787, I.3.3.2.3.3, emp. added).

Logically, a cause can occur simultaneous with its effect. So, for Hawking to argue that a cause for the Big Bang is unnecessary and even impossible since it must precede the Big Bang, is simply incorrect. It seems to imply a shallow understanding of the Law of Causality on the part of Hawking. A proper understanding of the Law of Causality reveals that the Law does not rule out the existence of a Creator even if the Big Bang were true, since the effect of the Universe could occur simultaneous with its causal activity. That said, ultimately, even though Hawking is inaccurate in his use of the Law of Causality, it is irrelevant since the Big Bang Theory is not in keeping with the scientific evidence anyway (see Miller, 2007; Thompson, Harrub, and May, 2003 for a presentation of some of this evidence).

REFERENCES

Craig, William Lane (1994), “Creation and Big Bang Cosmology,” Philosophia Naturalis, 31[1994]:217-224.

“Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” (2011), Discovery Channel, August 7.

Kant, Immanuel (1787), The Critique of Pure Reason (South Australia: The University of Adelaide Library), 2nd edition, trans. J.M.D. Meiklejohn, http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kant/immanuel/k16p/.

Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27[4]:25-31, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=588&article=643.

Miller, Jeff  (2011a), “A Review of Discovery Channel’s ‘Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?’” Reason & Revelation, 31[10]:98-107, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1004&article=1687.

Miller, Jeff (2011b), “God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/3716.

Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique” Reason & Revelation, 23[5]:33-47, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=541&article=28.




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