Logisch Denken: The Cosmos, Beginnings, Faith & Reason — Part 1

I’m doing a series of posts under the title Logisch Denken (German, “think logically”). In a few paragraphs, I’m attempting to show that Reason and Faith are not, contrary to popular opinion, mutually exclusive. That is, I don’t think a person must choose between one or the other. In fact, what I hope to accomplish is to show, quite simply, that there are instances where reason can cohere with a faith commitment (i.e., that these two are not at odds). My last post kicked things off by attempting to do this very thing. There I tried to point out that the universe, having merely a contingent existence, required (by definition) some sort of necessary existence/being for it’s own being and existence. I ended the post by saying that a person (an atheist, say) should not be afraid to follow the argument even if it resulted in religious implications. To do otherwise is unwarranted dogmatism. In this post, I want to continue showing how logic and religious faith cohere, that they are not necessary enemies.

First, let’s examine once more the cosmos—that is, the whole of space-time. One must ask the following question: Did the universe have a beginning or is it beginningless? Either the universe had a beginning or it always existed (in some fashion). Which of these is most reasonable? Theists (believers) would say that the universe most definitely had a beginning, for it was created by God. It is important to point out, moreover, that this is similar to the position of most scientists, even non-theistic ones—namely, the idea that the universe had some sort of (however mysterious) “beginning.” This idea is called “Big Bang Cosmology.” The prevailing idea among scientists (both theistic and atheistic) is that the universe “sprung” from some point of singularity. Scientific data does seem to lend support for this hypothesis, e.g., Edwin Hubble’s discovery of how the universe seems to be expanding as shown in spectrum shifting, etc. The theist’s idea that the universe had a beginning lends to the prevailing scientific consensus that the universe began with, well, a “bang.” I’m not a physicist, but I do know a bit about some of the philosophical issues that pertain to this. And I think philosophy could help illuminate the question of beginnings further.

On this, let’s suppose the other position, namely, that the universe—the whole of space/matter and time—was infinite. Is this a reasonable idea? I don’t think so. I follow philosopher W. Craig on this one. That is, the idea of an eternal/infinite universe is not a reasonable position precisely because it results in odd mathematical paradoxes. Craig, if I remember right, once gave an example of the paradox. For instance, suppose a person, Sam, had an infinite amount of marbles. Moreover, Sam took the time to number all of them. Let’s further suppose that Sam gave all of the odd numbered marbles away to a friend named Katy while keeping the even ones for himself. In response to this, we ask an initial question, How many marbles does Sam have after he gave away the odd numbered ones? Well, he would have an infinite amount of (even numbered) marbles. Furthermore, how many marbles would Katy have? She, too, would have an infinite amount of (odd numbered) marbles. So the paradoxical question is this: How can half of an initial set of marbles be, at the same time, equal to the number of the original set? The idea seems self-contradictory, for how could half of a whole be, at the same time, equal to the whole? This is logically contradictory. But even more so (I’m unsure if Craig himself points out this following question), How could Sam even have taken the time to number the original set to begin with? He would never have finished the numbering process before he could have given away the odd numbered ones, for it would have taken him an infinite amount of time to count them. The point, it seems, is this: actual infinity does not exist in a space-time universe. The concept and idea does, yes. But actually, no. Thus, the universe—the set of space-time “stuff”—is not eternal or infinite. Or, at the very least, it’s not logical or in any case reasonable to believe it is.

There’s more to say about all this—e.g., what caused the Big Bang? Does the Big Bang need a “cause”? We will tackle those questions and similar ones in the next post. But suffice it to say presently: The theistic idea that the universe did, in fact, have a beginning is not an unreasonable idea. In fact, this idea itself is the general consensus of the scientific community and it is also philosophically much more satisfying, at least in the face of the alternative.

Is theism unreasonable? So far, absolutely not. It is, at least up to this point, entirely consistent with what most believe about cosmology, as we have said. But I’m prepared to go further than this. I will go so far as to say with other theists (Craig, Moreland, et al) that theism, as opposed to non-theism, is not only not unreasonable, but a worldview to be preferred since it is most reasonable. I will say more about this in the next post.

(The third installment in this series can be found here.)

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