RESPONDblog: Aha! But Who Made Your God, Then?

the-eternity-of-morning_src_1

It is the age-old school playground argument.

 

“You believe God created the world? Ha! Who made God then? Huh? Can’t answer that one, can you? Gotcha.”

 

In other words – belief in a creator God is absurd. And therefore – so is the question – “who made an eternal, un-caused God?”

 

While I don’t agree that belief in an eternal creator God is absurd – I  understand where the sentiment’s coming from. After all – we live each day interacting with people, we live in homes, we Google for stuff online, we feed the dog and take her walkies.  In other words – we are constantly interacting with things that had a beginning. There was a moment in time when my dog was born, when the Google servers first appeared online, and so on. We are beings with a beginning. We have a first cause. And so we view everything around us thru those lenses. And it makes belief in an eternal God feel absurd.

 

It is natural for people to assume that everything that exists today had a first cause.

This sounds logical – but actually it’s not.

It sounds scientific – but it’s not provable.

To be logical – we actually need to say – whatever BEGINS to exist has got a first cause. Our friends, pets, houses, websites etc.  That  feels right and proper, doesn’t it?

 

So here’s an interesting thought.

 

We also live each day with a bunch of things that DO NOT have a first cause. And they feel right and proper to us too. So what am I talking about?

 

Well – think about the laws of logic. The simplest is the law of identity, which states X=X. In other words – the chair you are sitting on IS a chair. It’s not something else. We work our way thru life – whether we know it or not – relying heavily on the laws of logic to make sense of our surroundings and what is happening. But these laws were not created by anyone – they were discovered. They were uncovered  – and a label was given to them. But the laws themselves have always been there.  A similar thing could be said about Mathematics, Morality, Music and so on. Humanity has not created these things – they never began to exist – but people naturally choose to use them. What caused Logic, Mathematics, Music or Morality? Nothing caused them – they just are; they are un-created. And we rely on them in our lives too.

 

Many of us will wrestle with this concept. But you know, it’s not so long since many scientists thought that something really big in our lives was also eternal and uncaused. Less than 100 years ago – Scientists believed that the Universe our planet spins thru was eternal. In other words – they rationally believed and defended the theory that the universe had been around forever. That there was no first cause of the Universe. That it was uncreated. Now – today cosmologists and physicists point to evidence of a moment of creation in the past. But for a long time, rational human brains argued for an eternal universe.

So here’s my point – if our best and brightest thinkers believed in an eternal uncaused universe just a few decades ago – why is it suddenly so irrational to point to evidence of an eternal, uncaused creator today?

 

Our lives are full of things that had a beginning – and therefore they had a cause. Our lives are also filled with things that never had a beginning – and therefore don’t have a first cause.

 

In the light of all that – and coming back to the playground question “who made God?”  – lets re-phrase the question a slightly different way.

“What caused the self-existent, uncaused Cause;  who is by definition unmade?”

When we look the question that way – we might just as well be asking “Why does the colour green look green? Why does a G chord sound like a G chord?” Well – it just does. We’ve been living with it for all our lives so far…why make such a big issue out of it?!

 

Who made God? No one made him. As the Bible tells us…He just is.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.” Deuteronomy 33:27, NLT

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stuartgrayuk

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

20 thoughts on “RESPONDblog: Aha! But Who Made Your God, Then?”

  1. “we are constantly interacting with things that had a beginning”

    To be more exact, we are constantly interacting with things that were formed from other things. The dog doesn’t simply “begin”, he grows. The mountain does not begin, he gets formed by geological forces from the earth. Etc. There is nothing in our experience that simply “begins”.

    And this is, where the basic premise falls apart: “Whatever BEGINS to exist has got a first cause”. Why? Who says that? Prove it. No? It’s just a claim, nothing more.

    (No, I don’t agree that music didn’t have a beginning, as it was simply invented by humans, or, if you want to be more generic, by some animal who liked certain sounds).

    And of course, the problem with this statement is, that when people are talking about things that do not begin, they mean “god”. In other words, the argument is “Everything except god has got a first cause”. But from this argument you cannot conclude that god is the first cause, because god is already in the premise. Hidden carefully, only showing implicitly, but there. So, it’s a tricky circular argument, but circular nevertheless. God is hidden in the premise which then is used to prove god. A sleight of hand, nothing more.

    1. Hi Atomic Mutant – thanks so much for taking the time to reply!

      That’s an interesting way of looking at biology. I guess in one sense I agree with you…conception is about one thing interacting with another. But I think you are then stretching to say that – therefore conception is not the moment of “beginning” for the new life form? Is that what you are saying? If so…I think at that point…you are on your own.

      Whatever begins to exist has a first cause – I would say that is self evident. We live our lives in the light of it. Its an assumption we all naturally make. When you fill out a job application there might be a question on there that asks “How old are you?” In other words…how long has it been since you were first caused. When we watch a movie…we might ask…who is the Director? We assume the movie needed a Director for it to exist today…someone to cause it. And so on.

      If things have a cause – then what is this cause?

      I’m not trying to smuggle God anywhere in this blog – after all, he’s even mentioned in the title of the blog. 🙂

      What I am saying tho is that I believe that there are certain categories of “thing” in life which are by nature un-caused. And philosophy would point to God belonging to this category. So he’s only one of the items on the list! If by definition God is un-caused – then the question “who made God” makes as little sense as the question “who made the laws of logic”.

      If one’s a priori starting point is – “there is no God”…then I can see why the blog will raise issues. But really…those issues would point us beyond this blog to the circumstantial evidence in favor of Theism…and then eventually to the circumstantial evidence to support Christianity as opposed to any other world religion. In other words…more discussion required?

      BTW – I would also suggest that…even though God’s only one item on the “un-caused” list…he’s a vitally important one to consider.

      Cheers!

      Stuart

      1. Conception can, of course be considered a “beginning”, but not the same kind of beginning as the beginning of a universe, which we don’t know anything about. A conception is the combination of two pieces of matter, sperm and egg, while before the universe, there wasn’t even “time”, which makes it hard to talk about “before”. So comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges, it doesn’t make much sense.

        Assumptions that we naturally make are nice for our everyday lives, but I wouldn’t starting to base physics on it. The universe is more complex than the common sense of Joe Average Guy.

        If god is the only thing in this category, he IS the category, which makes any argument using that category dishonest, just an attempt to hide the word “god” by using the category.

        My starting point is… There is not enough evidence to consider god plausible. There is no need to consider god required for anything. So I don’t assume his existence. In case of religion, the simple concept of deism becomes even complex and… small: God created a whole universe and now he cares about what type of fish some guy eats. Yeah, that sounds likely.

  2. And since 1900 we’ve been exploring the world of the quanta, where events really do occur without a cause, such as the decay of radioactive nuclei. And so the old paradigm of every event requiring a cause is relegated to the bin of misguided ideas from previous centuries along with the aether and phlogiston.

    1. Hi Linuxgal – thanks for taking the time to reply! Well – Quantum Mechanics certainly reveals some mind bending realities…Wave Particle Duality…Particle Indeterminacy which makes the observable outcome behavior of a subatomic particle more of a probability distribution rather than an absolute certainty… Fascinating stuff. But nothing that denies first cause of the strange subatomic particles that matter is comprised of? Or is your understanding different?

      Stephen Hawking does try to avoid a first cause…he claims that the Universe can create itself out of nothing due to quantum gravity. But then he says it gets created within a quantum vacuum…which certainly isn’t nothing! What *caused* the quantum vacuum? More than that…he does assume in his book, I think, that the laws of physics are themselves un-caused…so you can add those to the list of vital un-caused things we rely on in life…

      Cheers!

      Stuart

      1. One way I like to think about this is to consider the prime numbers, which start 2, 3, 5, 7,11….there’s a pattern. Aliens in another galaxy will have the same sequence of primes that we do, and if our civilization started all over from scratch we’d discover the same sequence ourselves. The frequency of prime numbers relative to the set of all numbers decays at a predictable rate, much like the decay of radioactive nuclei, yet there is no function P(n) that will spit out the nth prime, just as there is no way to predict a certain nucleus will decay. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where the distribution of prime numbers could have been “caused” as though they were the last pins standing after God threw a bowling ball. Could God have created a different set, with 9 as a prime number? Only if you can imagine he could have created a four sided triangle as well, or a bowling ball that is simultaneously all white and all black. And so, with the countless facets of number theory appearing to precede any god, I have no trouble thinking that the laws of regularities of succession (physical laws) preceded a god as well.

      2. That’s cool – really interesting!

        When you consider the fine tuning of the universe (decay rates and so on) I wonder if logical laws, mathematical language…and so on…are a by product of that finely tuned universe? Logic and Mathematics exist in a mind – and so I suggest, they existed before the observable universe existed…in the mind of God.

        cheers!

        Stuart

      3. If you want a first cause… What is more likely. A quantum vacuum, which is very simple, or a highly complex being with feelings, wishes, personality, etc. – which then creates the simple quantum vacuum?

        Atheists don’t say that a first cause isn’t possible. Most of them admit that we simply don’t know. But if there is a first cause, a quantum vacuum seems much more elegant and likely than a very specific deity, sorry.

      4. One of the problems I see with Material Naturalism – which is the philosophy that leads to a view of the Universe that Atomic Mutant is talking about (simple evolves to complex) is that we have to work really hard to impose that understanding on what we find.

        For example. Biology LOOKS designed (according to Dawkins) but we must remember that its not. Why must we work so hard to remember its not designed even tho it looks like it is? So that evolutionary theory goes unchallenged. What a mistake. Follow the observations where they lead you. Gather the data about the enormous complexity of the cell, the staggering information content not just in the nucleus of the cell (DNA) but also in the Gene Regulatory Networks that hardwire the shape of living beings…all documented and engineered and functioning within the cell right after conception.

        For example, the Universe looks fine tuned to support Biological life. But we’ve got to remember that its not…even tho it looks like it is. And so on.

        It comes down in all of these things…to where our starting point is. I suggest that if we begin with a Designer, it leads us to what we see today. A Universe of staggering beauty, diversity, complexity and the ability to adapt and survive.

        Who made God? Noone made him – he’s un-caused by nature. But also by nature…he is a creative Designer. And so you and I are here having this conversation online today…

        Cheers!

        Stuart

      5. Science is the attempt to remove human bias. Clouds LOOK like sheep. The data LOOKS not random. etc.etc. – but in the end, we often learn that there are no sheeps in the sky and that the data was random after all. The brain is good at seeing patterns – so good, that it often sees patterns where there are none. So simply accepting that something looks like something else… isn’t a really good idea. Science tries to remove subjective feelings from the process. What if I told you, to me, the world looks random? Who is correct? NO ONE. Because our personal feelings how things look like are completely IRRELEVANT.

        Evolutionary Theory goes unchallenged? It gets challenged all the time, especially by scientists, but as with many good theories, it survives this challenges, proving to be adequate. Challenging theories is what science is about. Following the facts where they lead to IS science. Simply looking at something and saying “Oh, now that looks like a sheep” IS NOT SCIENCE. Especially if you are talking about a cloud the size of a house.

        But, in the end, you admitted the truth: You have a starting point. And that’s not science. In science, that would be the RESULT. In science you look at the facts and see where they lead instead of asking yourself if some random starting point might fit anywhere – because THAT will, without doubt, lead to you deluding yourself, ignoring evidence that disagrees with your starting point, etc. Confirmation bias is a well known human problem – and another reason why the scientific method tries to reduce human bias as much as possible.

      6. We all have a starting point – or to put it another way – a cause 🙂

        “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Lawgiver”

        Have a look at Dembsky’s “The Design Inference” if you are interested in why simple pattern detection (sheep shaped clouds) isn’t a good or sufficient analogy when discussing design in Biology.

        Lets keep in touch, Atomic Mutant.

        Cheers!

        Stuart

      7. Possible, yes. But if the starting point is reality, that has some advantages over a starting point that is just an idea that might or might not be true. So, better start at observing the universe instead of starting by inventing a god.

        “Sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reasons.”

        I don’t discuss with Dembsky, but with you. It’s good enough for this little discussion, if you want to ignore it, feel free. We both know, that you will ignore anything that doesn’t tell you what you want to believe anyway – I already mentioned the confirmation bias.

      8. Hi there Atomic Mutant – your statement that “Science is the attempt to remove human bias” is an interesting one. Because – as I’ve suggested – everyone has a bias, as you put it. We all have a worldview. And whether we are studying history, ethics, philosophy…or Science…we bring our worldview to our study. So – for example – someone who has a commitment to material naturalism will interpret the data in light of this. As will the theist.

        Is science an attempt to remove human bias? I disagree. I think Science is a tool that humanity uses to compare the ideas in our minds…with physical reality. Science is one tool we have that allows us to refine our ideas…as we follow the data to its logical conclusion. Do our ideas match what we actually observe? Science is a great tool to help us answer those sorts of questions.

        So – does Science demand we start with a blank sheet before we can work towards a result? Not at all. We NEED a starting point, to begin the process of observation…interpretation…refinement… The process of refinement and discovery is what its all about.

        After all – Science is done by people. People with a Worldview – with “glasses” thru which they interpret the world…their lives…their situations. Negative experiences can help to shape our Worldview…as well as positive ones. Our worldview is not irrelevant – it is critical – and it drives how we naturally interpret the data. The challenge comes when the data does not fit with ones worldview.

        For example – we are committed to the belief that science proves that life has evolved over millions of years. And yet – the latest study into Biology and the structure of the cell shows highly specified information contained within it featuring language syntax, rules, mechanisms for correcting errors, etc. When we assume a Material Naturalist Worldview – we do not want to point to Design because we don’t like that interpretation of the data (even tho it fits with our observations in others spheres of science like Archaeology, for example. I find an ancient carving containing words and syntax and language rules…and I assume an intelligent person wrote it…not that over missions of years erosion has cause it)

        Your example of a cloud in the shape of a sheep is also an interesting one. Proponents of design in nature aren’t looking for shapes, tho. They are noticing complex interlocking biological mechanisms – containing the elements of complex language – that are co-dependent – and bear the hallmarks of an author and a designer.

        What I am pointing out is that – Science is done by people of all sorts of Worldviews. And when it comes down to evidence for human origins…the data is pointing more strongly towards Design…whether people with a Naturalist Worldview want to admit it or not. Yes my personal worldview supports a creator…but I would suggest that when anyone honestly looks at a complex mechanism…or even just words on a blog…their existence points to a designer or an author. All the more when we see biological systems where they have the ability to adapt to their surroundings (micro-evolution, if you will…beak lengths that vary depending on the conditions and so on).

        cheers!

        Stuart

      9. You didn’t quite get what I wanted to tell you…

        Yes, science is done by people. Yes, people are biased. But that is why the scientific METHODS are designed in a way to remove that human bias as much as possible. Blind- and Double-Blind studies, for example.

        Yes, science is just a tool, but a good tool can be used to prevent certain errors people would make without a tool or with a bad tool. Tools allow us to make things in a better way then without the tool. And one way to make things better (sometimes) is to prevent human flaws from tainting the result.

        And hope you will excuse me if I don’t want to have the same boring discussion again and again and again. Sorry, I am tired of hearing from the divine watchmatcher and I am tired of hearing that because someone looks like X, it must have been god. If you want to see that idea destroyed, simply use google, I’m not in the mood of quoting here.

      10. I would certainly be interested in reading about Double Blind studies in Human Origins Science?

        And if everyone thought that Neo Darwinism was the obvious interpretation of the latest scientific data…there wouldn’t be active Scientific groups like http://www.thethirdwayofevolution.com. Or indeed, the Centre for Science and Culture http://www.discovery.org/csc/ A word to the wise – just because the internet is an echo chamber for pop-culture noise…doesn’t automatically make that noise useful or true. But…I’m sure it can feed our bias.

        And if people in the Scientific Community really followed your rules about removal of human bias…I suspect there would not be the persecution of many Scientists today who are open to…and conducting experiments around… the observation of design in nature.

        cheers!

        Stuart

      11. Please, can you do me a favor? Stop that “Darwinism” nonsense, ok? Why, you ask? Because it makes you sound like a dumb moron who somehow thinks that making it an “-ism” makes it less plausible. Nobody calls the theory of gravity “Newtonism”, because everyone implicitly understands that it just makes you look like a fool, so why do you think that is has any sense in evolution? Nobody worships Darwin, he had some good ideas but while evolutionary theory may have started with him, it didn’t stop there.

        And double blind studies were a simple example that most people have heard about, nothing more. But yes, scientists are humans, too, that’s why the system includes peer review, etc. to remove as much as individual bias as possible. It’s not perfect, but the results are better then everything we got otherwise.

        Oh, and of course… Don’t forget that be the next Galileo, you don’t only have to be ridiculed .- you also have to be right. Many people get the first part right but miss the 2nd.

      12. Honestly, I don’t even have an idea what “human origin studies” ARE… If we are talking about evolution, Lenski’s results can be reproduced double-blind, if you want to. And that’s just an example that I, a complete amateur, can think of. Care to guess what a real biologist could tell you?

      13. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, mate.

        So am I – and I would suggest that your picture of science as a gentleman’s activity…where human bias is open to be elimination…is an idealistic one.

        Frankly – I wish you were right. But in reality – when we look at what actually goes on – you are only considered a peer to be reviewed when you have a matching world view. If you don’t…then the “Moron” comment raises it’s head. What a pity.

        Thanks for the chat anyway.

        Cheers!

        Stu

      14. Nobody doubts that scientists are not perfect, but on the other hand, your extreme is just a naive conspiracy theory. Traditionally, it was the church who tried to stop science and not science. Nowadays, we can rely on ONE almost omnipotent force…

        The wish of scientists to prove other scientists wrong.

        Sometimes it will take some time, sometimes we may go wrong for a while, but in the end, we will continue to learn and get better, because that’s what the tool called “science” is good for. And it’s the best one we have. The tool “randomly guessing” called “religion” didn’t bring us here. Science did. Literally, because no religion every invented your computer.

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