‘The universe has a cause.’ The claim seems uncontroversial enough. David Hume was perhaps more right than he could have known when he wrote of the human mind’s proneness to associate cause with effect regardless of whether it has a rational basis for doing so (which it ultimately does not); increasing evidence suggests that the principle of causality may well be something not learned through experience, as he had suggested, but biologically and psychologically inherited, which would render us creatures made naturally uncomfortable by the prospect of a cause occurring without its corresponding effect, or, more relevantly, the reverse. It is upon this intuitive inclination—an inclination which, it is worth repeating, has no basis in rational thought—that rests one of the most popular and persuasive arguments for the existence of a supernatural first mover (or, more bravely, a god): the kalãm cosmological argument.
Taking its Arabic name from its roots in Islamic theology and championed today by Dr. William Lane Craig of ReasonableFaith.org, the argument generally takes the following form:
- Premise one: Everything that begins to exist has a cause;
- Premise two: The universe began to exist;
- Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.
To grant credit where it is due, this argument benefits from logical validity. In simple terms, this means that it cannot be the case that the conclusion is false if the premises are true, since the former logically follows from the latter. That makes the task of refuting this syllogism a plain one; one or both of the premises must be shown to be false.
I often find, in the efforts of my atheist friends and colleagues to do just this, a subordination of the importance of the first premise to the importance of the second. In an attempt to reverse this philosophical injustice, I shall simply grant the second premise. It may be the case, of course, despite the overwhelming evidence that our universe is not an eternal one, that something came before it (if ‘before’ can even make sense in such a context), or that it is only one of many coexisting in a multiverse. On this point it is fair to remain agnostic, and so I will not attempt to prove false the claim that the universe began to exist.
However, I will stress that in granting that ‘the universe began to exist’, we are really granting that ‘the universe began to exist out of nothing’. If the universe were created out of preexisting material, we would be left with the question of where this material itself came from, and the argument would prove nothing important. If ‘beginning to exist’ means anything philosophically significant in this context, it must mean beginning to exist ex nihilo.
It is with this in mind that we should assess the first premise: ‘Everything that begins to exist has a cause.’ This phrase, in all its unassuming simplicity, has the potential to strike its reader as a truism, but it pays to ask yourself an important and relevant question: when have you ever actually known something to begin to exist? Have you ever seen something begin to exist, or even heard of such a thing? You may be inclined to answer that this happens all the time. Just this morning my coffee began to exist — only, it didn’t really begin to exist at all, rather it was the product of a rearrangement of preexisting matter.
Keep in mind that if the kalãm seeks to draw a parallel between things within the universe beginning to exist and the universe itself beginning to exist, they must ‘begin to exist’ in the same fashion. To reiterate, for philosophical relevance the kalãm argument must deal with things that begin to exist from nothing. Since this was obviously not the case with my coffee, it is an inappropriate comparison. What, then, within the universe, has truly begun to exist (from nothing) at a particular point in the past?
Nothing. The answer is nothing. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, and thus nothing in physical existence ever ‘began to exist’ in the sense we are interested in. Not my coffee, nor my computer, nor my father, nor the Burj Khalifa. Even something as seemingly abstract as an idea cannot begin to exist from nothing, since ideas are ultimately nothing more than signals in the brain, and hence physical in nature. It is this realisation that allows us to dispel the first premise as founded on an equivocation fallacy, since the concept of ‘beginning to exist’ is being used, it seems, inconsistently.
Nonetheless, it might be said, this variety of matter and energy constantly rearranging itself must itself, collectively, have an origin. This is of course plausible, but this origin would consist in the very beginning of the universe itself, when all matter simultaneously began to exist. That is to say, no matter has ever begun to exist except when the universe itself came into being. The only thing that ever actually began to exist from nothing, then, is the universe itself, and even this can be confidently asserted only because of our previously granting an entire premise of the kalãm.
Consider the implications of this. If the only thing that ever began to exist (in the relevant sense) is the universe, then the first premise, ‘Everything that begins to exist has a cause’ becomes ‘The universe has a cause’, since the universe is everything that begins to exist, being the only thing that began to exist. It should be immediately apparent that this premise is identical to the conclusion, and thus the kalãm can also be rendered as follows:
- Premise one: The universe has a cause;
- Premise two: The universe began to exist;
- Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.
As is clear, the second premise is in fact irrelevant, and the argument is now transparently circular. It says nothing whatsoever, since the first premise states the same as the conclusion, and therefore is not a functional syllogism, but a mere claim. It is a claim which, to be at all convincing, will require far more to support it than this unimpressive yet ubiquitous attempt.
Brilliant – such a well-made argument! This had never occurred to me before.
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I am wondering why cosmic skeptic has never done any videos or articles on neat death experience science ??
Is it because it severely weakens the atheistic stance from science alone ?????
I can’t speak for him, however it might be because that argument is one from personal experience, someone claiming they witnessed god or heaven or had a spiritual experience when almost dying, or dying and being revived.
As it is known, personal experiences are very unreliable, hallucinations and delusion are completely possible explanations for these experiences, it is also completely unverifiable whether or whether not someone actually had an experience with a real god or not and so is very unreliable in determining the reality of the world.
Check out Dolores Cannon’s books.
Yeah. Good point. You can’t say “whatever begins to exist *ex nihilo* must have a cause ” if you haven’t observed any actual cases of that. Now one could say “That’s precisely the problem with that”, but that would imply that the KCA’s proponent’s claim is false.
You, rightly it seems, point out that if only the universe formed ex nihilo then Premise 1 becomes circular. Perhaps one could respond by saying that it’s axiomatic that IF something forms ex nihilo, THEN it has a cause, independently of the rest of the argument and it just so happens that we observe the universe having formed ex nihilo.
The problem with this response is that it would make P1 a priori and not dependent on observation. I don’t know of any compelling a priori reason to accept P1.
In fact, someone (I think Richard Carrier) argued that it’s not just possible but probable that a universe would arise from nothing, in the literal sense of no physical states at all, not just the Lawrence Krauss quantum field sense. His reasoning is that in that case, there would be no laws of nature like the principle of sufficient reason and hence nothing to exclude such an event.
I’m not a student of philosophy, so forgive me if I’m making false assumptions here. But, if Alex’s argument holds true, isn’t there an implied assertion that it is more reasonable to assume that a universe sprang into existence causelessly, contrary to its own physical properties, than that a prime causer, whose properties perfectly match those required, created it?
That is an illogical assertion, is it not?
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You’re absolutely right, it is an illogical assertion. At best, what Alex’s post does is force the proponent of the Kalam to rephrase his first premise and maybe knock down one of the multiple reasons for believing the first premise (namely experiential), but it does absolutely nothing to show that the first premise itself is false. The new syllogism can be stated as follows:
If the Universe began to exist, it has a cause.
The Universe began to exist
Therefore, the Universe has a cause.
It isn’t! He refutes the truth of premise 1, which states that everything that begins to exist has a cause by suggesting that the origin of the universe is the only instance that we have of something that actually began to exist, by granting the second premise. Since there is nothing we can compare it to, the claim that everything that begins to exist has a cause is rendered meaningless. That is all. Nowhere does it suggest that the universe sprang into existence causelessly and neither does it hint that.
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I see no reason to think that either Carrier or Krauss has made the case for a universe from nothing. David Albert had a pretty devastating review of Krauss a few years back:https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html
With all due respect, I disagree:
Not brilliant at all. More like the ruminations of a millennial who thinks he knows things others haven’t already refuted.
1. “ruminations of a millennial”
Your borderline condescending name-calling and focus on an opponent’s trait has been duly noted.
2. “thinks he knows things others haven’t already refuted”
He’s humble enough to know that there will always be things he doesn’t know. How many people do you know, at his age, are digging for real answers about the nature of reality? Most people, young and old, are only concerned with the material bullshit of this world. And, it appears, that he’s not buying into the man-made version of God.
Reblogged this on AnonofReason.
Superb argument. Well done!
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The point you make about circular reasoning is very good.
The other thing about the First Cause argument is the assumption that a “first cause” is identical to God as understood by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
God, according to these religions, is a being who is supremely wise, good and powerful, and who loves us as a father does his children.
Suppose you could prove the existence of a First Cause, whatever that may mean. What difference would it make? Why would this be any more relevant to everyday human existence than the Big Bang theory or any other theory of theoretical physics?
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I think it is a mistake to critique the Kalam argument, taken as an argument for theism, on the first two premises (as nearly all of its critics do). While such critiques are certainly legitimate, the reasons why they are legitimate can become very technical very quickly and thus lose the majority of listeners. It is the cleverness of the Kalam that it relies on the very strong intuitions of its intended audience.
The best place to attack the Kalam is on its all important but often understated THIRD premise – to wit “if the universe had a cause that cause must be a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, uncaused, personal agent” (quoted from William Lane Craig). And the best way to attack this premise is to point out (1) that no person has, or ever could have, ANY of the first four attributes mentioned (let alone all of them) or (2) if you are allowed to postulate a particular individual person possessing the first four attributes, you should also be allowed to postulate particular instances of countless other items from everyday life that might also have those attributes (a Giant Computer, for example) and would therefore also serve as the cause of the universe.
You’re right, of course. The reason I brought up religion is that the only times I’ve ever heard the First Cause argument is in the context of argument for monotheistic religion.
In that regard, even if you could show that the universe was created by an all-powerful sentient being, that would not prove the existence of the Heavenly Father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Such a being might not have any more interest in individual human beings than a biologist has in individual bacteria in a petri dish.
How is that so if the cause is the first cause? Wouldn’t the first cause of necessity from the effect produced (the universe) have these attributes? If not, then the effect is greater than the cause.
I find your second premise to be very entertaining, and while I do agree with the logic of Alex’s syllogism, I don’t see how a giant computer or any other created object would be able to share the same quality as a being such as God. You can change the values and attributes of that computer to match that of God, but then that wouldn’t be a computer anymore. XD
The cause of the universe does not need to have the qualities of God (ie, a “person”). It only needs to be a cause. Lots of things other than a person can be a cause. That’s the point.
Are you aware? Do you exist? Of course you do. You do exist, you always have, and you always will. When your body dies, you will still be aware of your existence. This awareness is the cause, the creator of the universe. The universe is a reality within True Reality. The universe is also known as the Land of Duality or The Land of Separation. The creator of this reality was you. It was me. It was us. We are the creator that forgot that we are the creator. Only a creator can dive into its own creation. That’s why there is no true creation in this realty. Every thing, every thought, every scene, every whatever, has already been created.
I really enjoyed your thoughts on this. I have not explored this argument much actually. However, I do have a few thoughts:
I think that our fascination with the origins of the universe and thus the decades of conversation surrounding the concept of the “first cause” has to do with our understanding of beginnings. Everything around us seems to have a beginning and an ending, so to speak. My own life had a beginning and will have an end. A book has a beginning and an end. Likwise, your post and even this very response had a beginning and an end. Therefore, it seems only natural for us to think about how the universe began. Now, let me tie in your ideas of causation. You’re right. A cup of coffee does not come into existence ex nihilo. However, I don’t think that the cup of coffee is irrelevant because of this. The particular arrangement of atoms and molecules forming that cup of coffee did have a cause in time in space. Would it not exist should I have chosen not to make that cup of coffee? Indeed, the matter/energy existed prior and would exist after, but that cup of coffee would not. Likewise, my examples of my life, a book, your post, and my reply all have causes. Therefore, it seems natural, even logical, to posit the question of the beginning of the universe as well as its cause.
Regardless, one can merely say that the universe did not have a beginning at all. Yes, there was a first “bang” that began the expansion of the hot, dense singularity of matter and energy. However, as you have pointed out, matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed within our universe. So, maybe the singularity didn’t have a beginning? After all, is that not the argument of theists as well? God does not have a beginning and therefore does not have a cause.
Personally, I jump straight to the question of fine tuning within our universe. Why is there anything within our universe at all, let alone the perfectly calibrated universal constants that allow life to exist as it does?
Overall, thank you for your thoughts and the conversations.
How is the universe is perfectly calibrated? This loaded phrase requires definition. There have been at least 5 mass extinctions previously on planet Earth, and the Earth is in the beginning of another mass extinction right now. A planet that periodically annihilates nearly all life is your idea of perfectly calibrated? It is only arrogance that presumes humanity is immune to this process. Or what other meaning do you attach to the phrase, “perfectly calibrated?“ We know for a fact through cosmology and astronomy that the universe is violent and deadly. It’s only a matter of time before humans go the way of the dinosaurs. Perfectly calibrated indeed.
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Just because life can perish, or that parts of the universe are hostile to life, does not mean that the universe is not calibrated for life. I do not mean that life cannot die in such a universe. Rather, I mean that should the physical constants and forces that govern the universe be any different than they are now, life would not exist. The values of the universal forces (such as the gravitational constant, weak and strong nuclear force, etc.) as they currently stand allow for the universe we live in. Can we die? Can species go extinct? Sure. Would life exist if the constants of the universe were even slightly different? No. These forces govern how sub atomic particles bind to one another and allow stars to be stable. Changing them changes the very fabric of how the universe works. If life is as fragile as you have already explained, then how could it survive, let alone originate in a universe where the forces that govern it do not allow for such a thing? The universe is, as they say, fine tuned.
As an athiest who ultimately finds the “fine tuning argument” for theism unconvincing, I also find that many athiests do not understand the argument and fail to respond to it appropriately. The fine tuning does not guarantee that life will exist and thrive at every time or place in the universe. Rather the fine tuning is needed for life to exist AT ALL. As such it is a legitimate point to raise and something that does seem to need an explanation. The reason that it is not a good argument for theism is because there are other, better explanations for it that do not require the existence of God or gods.
So what is really being said herein this post? The universe is uncaused? The universe is eternal? or The universe is self-caused? What?
// So what is really being said herein this post? The universe is uncaused? The universe is eternal? or The universe is self-caused? What?//
I believe that what is being said is that IF the universe had a cause ( a proposition, by the way, that is not necessarily true), then that cause not only does not have to be a personal agent (ie God), it is very unlikely to have been a personal agent (ie God).
Your analysis is not scientifically sound. ‘Universal constants’ don’t actually exist. Quantities and metrics are the product of human construction and do not exist in the natural world. They’re just tools that scientists and engineers use to quantify the physical properties of the universe and establish consistency. Centimetres, Joules, Newtons, etc. are just tools for us to ground abstract physical phenomena so that we can work with them reliably. Suppose that two intelligent civilizations arose and that they developed completely different systems of measurement and thus completely different conceptions of ‘universal constants’. Theists tend to miss the fact that naturalistic explanations for the evolution of the cosmos are not only corroborated empirically but are able to account for all perceived fine-tuning. Science cannot be 100% accurate, but its the best tool we have. Looking at evidence alone, religion is 0% accurate. Remember that the laws of physics are descriptive in nature. They describe phenomena that are intrinsic to the universe itself. If the universe was in fact engineered by some higher intelligence than said higher intelligence is a terrible engineer.
With regards to the question of ‘why is there anything in our universe at all’, I don’t know. Nobody really knows. Nobody can really know. My guess is as good as yours. The concept of God is merely a postulation and does not deserve to be granted any more weight.
“Your analysis is not scientifically sound. ‘Universal constants’ don’t actually exist. Quantities and metrics are the product of human construction and do not exist in the natural world.”
I think you’re missing the actual meaning of why those universal constants appear to be fine tuned.
1. Of course you can use nanofeet, fahrenheit and stones and measure time in “moons” – the constants are still going to be precisely the same, just expressed in different numbers with different units.
2. it’s not so much the actual value of the constants but rather the way they relate to each-other what makes the universe work.
What is usually misunderstood, though, is that the existing one is not the only combination of constants that would make a functioning universe that supports life.
It’s more like: change one slightly and you’ll have to adjust all the others to make it fit again.
There isn’t any “thing” in the universe. There is only consciousness. What you see in the physical world is really you just perceiving energy. Energy is condensed, or crystallized consciousness. Consciousness, at its core, is awareness. This is All That Is. This is God.
is it reasonable in your mind to postulate that the universe just always was. is your “i dont know how it got here” a genuine acceptance of the possibility that it just always was as a reasonable option – if its not a reasonable option then do you have to discount a creator as being even less reasonable in order to maintain genuine indifference ?
I think the fine tuning is a typical case for the Anthropic Principle. The universe must be fine tuned for otherwise we wouldn’t exist. Or in other words: It is not surprising that the cat has holes in the fur, exactly where its eyes are.
Also I think part of the argument misses the point. No one is claiming anything about the universe having a cause or not. It is only shown that the Kalam argument is circular and therefore of little help.
Time only exists in this reality. Time is not real. Time/space, is the perceived movement from one scene to the next. The Land of Duality(universe) is the ultimate paradox. It is a reality, but it isn’t real. The experiences you have and the wisdom you gain, are real. The reality is not “out there.” The reality is within your consciousness. The reality is a dream state. One could say that God is the original pure consciousness/awareness. You, as a souled being, contain all of the attributes of this God consciousness. These souled beings, us, are the ones having experiences in the Land Of Duality. And, by the way, the universe is dumb. I’m serious. It only appears perfectly calibrated, but it actually took eons to settle down. The Earth, on the other hand, was fine-tuned to be habitable for us souled humans. But it gets crazier. Earth is a dream within the dream of the Land of Duality. It was developed by us.
curious student here; i have a few ideas i’d like to talk through with someone.
“only, it [my coffee] didn’t really begin to exist at all, rather it was the product of a rearrangement of preexisting matter.”
Couldn’t we still consider it to begin to exist, though? Though it is formed of preexisting matter, the coffee itself did not exist prior to that point in time. It began to exist, just not ex-nihilo.
“Keep in mind that if the kalãm seeks to draw a parallel between things within the universe beginning to exist and the universe itself beginning to exist, they must ‘begin to exist’ in the same fashion.”
If we take this to Aristotle’s 4 causes, maybe we could consider the “efficient cause” to be the fashion in which the universe (or anything) is caused. Iirc WLC is referring to an efficient cause when he mentions “cause” in the kalam.
E.g.: 1. Everything that begins to exist has a [primary source of change or rest];
2. The universe began to exist;
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a [primary source of change or rest].
So I don’t think both have to refer to an ex-nihilo causation. Wouldn’t that be sort of mixing up formal causes? (The universe being formed out of nothing and coffee being formed out of pre-formed matter).
By changing the argument in that way I don’t think it’s committing an equivocation fallacy.
Premise 1 can be defended by considering that something cannot come from nothing.
To consider it false the contrary would have to be true (that something can come from nothing).
I hope my comment isn’t too over the place. I’m a med student with an interest in philosophy and the quarantine is giving me some extra time to pick up some philosophy. 😛
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It was shown by Ibn Taymiyya that the early scholars of Islam did not believe in creation of the world ex nihilo. It is sufficient to realize that every part of the world begins to exist out of another part in order to infer the existence of the eternal Originator of all things. The world may very well be preceded by other worlds in a series without beginning, and that would still not entail that there is anything external to God that is uncreated by Him. The evidence for God, says Ibn Taymiyya, can be known directly from the everyday origination of trees out of the earth and living things out of their parents. It can be predicated on the impossibility in the infinite regress of causes and dependencies, but not on that events do not regress into the past.
Alex also claims that matter changes only by rearrangement. This is a false claim as matter totally changes into heat and radiation and vice versa. Matter is not created ex nihilo, but it is certainly created out of energy and matter. Things fundamentally change and perish, and only God, the eternal Creator of all things, is not subject to perish.
//Things fundamentally change and perish, and only God, the eternal Creator of all things, is not subject to perish.//
This seems to be the crux of your argument, which, unfortunately, is fallacious (argument from ignorance fallacy) how do you know that god is the creator? and he/she/or whatever is eternal? and the creator of all things? and is not subject to perish? what do you even mean by god? you may define the noun god any which way you like, but definition is not the proof of god’s existence.
You see my friend, you are making sweeping assumptions about the so-called “creator” who nobody knows anything about, and whose existence has not been proven so far.
//You see my friend, you are making sweeping assumptions about the so-called “creator” who nobody knows anything about, and whose existence has not been proven so far.//
The originated nature of things entails their dependency on an eternal God. If you do not accept this to be the case, you must allow either for an infinite regress in dependencies or for a circular dependency, when both are rationally impossible.
The infinite regress in dependencies assumes that a sum of originated things exists by an originated thing included in the sum. This is impossible because the sum exists not by itself, and therefore not by a part of itself with greater reason.
The circular dependency assumes that things originate themselves by means of originating their causes. This is also impossible, for if a thing may not originate itself, it may not be the cause of its cause with greater reason.
It so only remains that things originate without an originator, which is impossible.
This is illustrated in a verse in the Quran where God reminds the polytheists who knowingly rejected Faith of their dependency on their Creator:
((Or were they created by nothing? Or were they the creators of themselves?))
To avoid these contradictions, the Originator must be made eternal and necessary, not an originated or a possible existent.
Atheists generally do not understand they are originated, and Alex here is a good example. He believes that nothing ‘begins to exist’. But if one believes that he does not begin to exist, one will obviously not know that he has an Originator. This is why I thought it is crucial to point out that matter not only rearranges, but is also fundamentally created and annihilated.
As for why I believe that God is Creator of all things, it is because there is nothing in the world that is not originated or subject to perish. Every part of the world is originated and is therefore dependent on its Originator. The evidences for God are as many as His creations.
If you are asking me instead for the reason I believe that this Originator is one and only, not one being among others in a pantheon, then this calls for a more complete explanation of the arguments for His oneness. Those arguments are mentioned in the Quran and have been fully explained by Muslim scholars like Ibn Taymiyya. Generally, they are predicated on the fact that God is unrestricted in power, and on the fact that He is sufficient for His creations, such that they are necessitated by His will and are unchangeable by another god.
More clearly, if multiple creators existed, God would be restricted in power and agency, and the different creations of each god would not be causally connected in one system, but would be causally disconnected necessarily. This is both impossible and nowhere to be seen.
This very argument is mentioned in the Quran: ((Nay, but We have brought them the Truth, and lo! they are liars. God has not taken any son, nor is there any god along with Him; else would each god have assuredly championed that which he created, and some of them would assuredly have overcome others. Glorified be God above all that they allege.))
I am not defining God into existence, Jack. I am simply describing God with meanings laymen find self-evident, and that may be additionally inferred through reason should natural intelligence no longer suffice.
God is an the eternal Creator of all things and is the Most High above all things. He is the maximally perfect being who is described with the highest attributes. He is the Sufficient one to whom we all turn for help when desperate, and is the Independent one on whom all things depend. None has right to be worshiped but God, which is the meaning of the first testimony of Faith: “La ilaha illa Allah”.
//The originated nature of things entails their dependency on an eternal God. If you do not accept this to be the case, you must allow either for an infinite regress in dependencies or for a circular dependency, when both are rationally impossible.
Or it could be that the originated nature of things depends on something other than God. For example it could depend on a Giant Computer. If you say that a computer is not eternal, I will reply that I am imagining a computer that IS eternal. If you say that no computer could be eternal, I reply that a person cannot be eternal either. If you say that the Giant Computer is just another name for God, I reply that the Giant Computer can’t be God because the Giant Computer is not a person. If you say that the eternal first cause must be a person, I simply ask “Why?”
David, the fact that you are able to imagine an eternal computer does not mean that it is philosophically possible for a computer to exist eternally. To judge a matter as possible, you have to look for evidence of its possibility. This evidence may be its very existence, the existence of something similar, or the existence of that which is less possible and closer to impossibility.
Take our Resurrection as an example. In the many verses of the Quran, God does not demonstrate the philosophical possibility of Resurrection by the fact that we can imagine it to be. Instead, He demonstrates its possibility with evidence, namely that He created us once and can do it again. In this way, the exalted God does not stop at epistemic possibility, for it does not suffice as evidence. You on the other hand have only mentioned that you find an eternal computer epistemically possible. You did not demonstrate that it is actually so.
A closer look at your silly conjecture will also lead you to realize that it is a rational impossibility which entails contradictions. An eternal computer is a philosophically impossible notion for many reasons. Tools are obviously not agents but a means of creation. They are influenced and used, unlike that which is eternal, independent and self-sufficient.
This should be a sufficient reply, unless you intend to posit a God who is without intention or will. If this latter is your intention, then know that God has more right to intention than you do. It is God who has instilled creation with will and knowledge. He is therefore a willing being necessarily. The Giver of perfection does not lack perfection but is more worthy of it.
//… the fact that you are able to imagine an eternal computer does not mean that it is philosophically possible for a computer to exist eternally. To judge a matter as possible, you have to look for evidence of its possibility. //
EXACTLY! And the fact that you can imagine an eternal PERSON does not make that possible either. Every single person you have ever met in your entire life has been finite. Evey single one. In fact the very concept of an eternal, timeless, spaceless person is an absurdity in nearly every sense of the word.
I have already pointed out evidence for that an eternal God is necessary and that an eternal computer is not even possible. Read through my posts carefully, David.
God is neither spaceless nor timeless. It is indeed absurd to claim that God is timeless or spaceless as you correctly point out. God is both above the world and before it in time. He is Most High and is the First without beginning and the Last without end.
This was the belief of early Muslims, and was equally the belief of early Christians, before they slowly strayed towards irrational strands of Greek philosophy. This has been clarified extensively in the works of Ibn Taymiyya.
You have not given any evidence. You have simply stated that an eternal person is possible while an eternal computer is not. Making a statement is not evidence.
If there is some reason to think that an eternal computer cannot exist – for example that no computer you have ever seen was ever eternal – then exactly the same reasoning will apply to show that an eternal person cannot exist.
If there is some reason to think that an eternal person might exist – for example that such a person is Most High and First without beginning and Last without end (not that these words constitute a reason to believe anything) – then the same “reasoning” would allow for an eternal computer that has the same properties.
Can you not see the perfect symmetry of the case?
You are correct that something cannot come from nothing. But consciousness has many tricks up its sleeves. It creates the illusion of matter by bringing energy down to its lowest form. We trick ourselves all the time with illusions. Our brains and minds are quite easily fooled. Just think of virtual realty. And no, life is not the matrix, but you could say it’s like a very convincing hologram.
“The universe had a beginning”
This has not been demonstrated.
Why does existence require a cause? And why does there have to be a “beginning”? If the theist demands a “No” to these questions for god (special pleading?) then it must be granted for the universe.
Suppose current cosmologists have it wrong and the universe is closed so that it is eternally expanding, contracting, and re-born in a never ending series of big bangs?
No cause. No beginning. Just existence.
And I don’t buy that the universe quantum mechanically self created itself from nothing. Krauss postulates vacuums are never really empty. That might be true in a universe full of stuff— matter, energy, and observers looking into the vacuum! We also have laws of nature that govern quantum physics. In a pre-existent state where space, time, stuff don’t exist, and it’s hard to contemplate this even as a thought experiment, what laws would govern self emergence?
Let’s assume the Big Bang pre-existent state is beyond the reach of physics because the laws which govern science break down in the singularity making the characterization of that state unknowable. This does not mean NOTHING existed, only that what came before is unknowable.
This is what I believe:
If something exists, something has always existed.
You could call that something God, but that is not required. Theists still have the burden of proof for supernaturalism. I’ve yet to hear a case made that does not end with faith, presuppositionalism, or circularity.
In my opinion, the cosmological argument is a dead end.
The Muslim theologian Ibn Taymiyya was of the opinion that God is perpetually creating and has always been originating universes. In his view, the species of the worlds is eternal but every particular world has a beginning. This view does not entail that anything is eternal with God or is uncreated. Rather, a nominalist who adopts this view can still believe that God is the Creator of all things.
Your points should worry only those theists who are unaware of the fact that substances originate and perish. Indeed, many theists, just like Alex, believe that creation ex materia is only to rearrange already existing matter. The substances according to them do not change into a new creation. The substances may have existed eternally. For this reason, these theists try to justify the existence of God with a major act of creation ex nihilo. They may invent subtle arguments to prove that substances and components of matter were originated out of nothing in the distant past.
According to Ibn Taymiyya, people who resort to this usually lack a proper conviction in God’s existence. The existence of God instead ought to be innate and known directly from observing the signs in His world, signs like trees and animals and minerals. These signs are originated as a substance, not just as a form or arrangement. They are therefore effects of a Creator who is neither originated nor contingent. These signs are also nowhere observed to originate ex nihilo. They are only observed to originate out of a matter that has ceased to exist and totally changed into a new creation.
If it is understood that the components of the natural world are changing and begin to exist out of other things, not just rearrange into new forms, most of the arguments against God’s creative agency will be resolved straight away.
I have written a booklet with the title ‘Shining Pearls of Faith’. It makes a quick and brief mention of these points, and also deals with many questions that are usually posed by atheists from a Taymiyyan viewpoint. Search for Shining Pearls of Faith in youtube and you will find the link to the pdf in the video description.
Wish you all the best in your search for answers.
Things, material things, don’t actually exist. Awareness is the only truth as it is itself existence. Every “thing”, and all of creation, is built off of the foundation of awareness. God is a human creation, and that’s why it’s so messed up. All That Is is more appropriate.
Great point. Dan Barker made the same point in his article “Cosmological Kalamity”. You can check it out here: https://infidels.org/library/modern/dan_barker/kalamity.html
Look, I agree with most everyone here that the kalam has problems, mainly because I agree that I don’t think premise 2 could ever be conclusively proved/agreed upon. But egad, please, for the love of all good things, do not reference that horrible Dan Barker article. It’s just about catastrophic for someone of his apparent intelligence. Just the theological and philosophical misunderstandings alone are enough to make me feel like my brain is bleeding out through my ears. And this is from someone who is completely and utterly uninterested in defending WLC’s version of the kalam (or indeed any version of the kalam that I have ever heard).
Sorry – I read the Dan Barker article and thought he did quite a good job at demolishing the KCA on philosophical grounds. Perhaps you could be more explicit about where you think he went wrong.
Sure. There are so many things I have problems with on Barker’s article that to deconstruct it entirely would take forever. But just to give a highlight of some of the areas I have problems with in only the “begging the question” section (don’t get me started on the others): he seems to misunderstand how theists use the cosmological argument, none of which simply “assume a NBE” but rather derive as a logical consequence of the argument that there must be a NBE (also, “the old cosmological argument claimed…that everything has a cause” – LOL, no. Never. Do give theistic philosophers some credit.) And it’s hardly like the idea of a NBE has come from nowhere (“Where do theists obtain the idea in the first place that there is such a set as NBE? By what observations or arguments is the possibility of beginningless objects warranted?”) Does he seriously not know this? There are tons of arguments of philosophical reasoning that aren’t strictly theistic in nature that argue that there must be at least one, if not more, NBE. Heck, for centuries scientists thought the universe was a NBE. He also wastes several paragraphs destroying the idea that some complex thing can come from something simpler, something no theist ever would actually disagree with him on because most theists believe that God is absolutely simple. Christians call it the doctrine of divine simplicity and Muslims call this Tawheed. (It boggles my mind that Barker doesn’t know this, given his past life as a preacher – just goes to show you don’t apparently have to know classical theology to become a preacher in the United States). Even Craig, who I don’t think fully accepts the doctrine of divine simplicity as traditionally formulated, still believes that God is simpler than the universe. So Barker’s gone down some bizarre side road with this and apparently doesn’t understand how Craig or other defenders of the kalam defend the idea of the cause as God (I’ll get to that). He also, I should add, misunderstands most teleological arguments in the footnote he drops in . “If functional complexity requires a designer, then the designer also needs a designer, because the designer must be at least as complex as the thing it designed.” Seriously? He’s about to go on to prove this entire principle was wrong, but he’s still advocating it as a legit way of “refuting teleological arguments”? I suppose he’s trying to do this to show that the theistic worldview is somehow internally inconsistent, but it’s just embarassing once you realize that theists don’t actually believe this point re complexity. Most teleological arguments don’t argue this: rather, they’re formulated something along the lines of, “the potential for the effect must exist within the cause” which is not the same thing as saying the cause must be as complex as the effect. It’s a fine distinction, but if you’re going to argue against teleological arguments in a public manner, you really ought to understand it. (PART 1)
Nancy, when you state that you don’t think premise 2 could ever be conclusively proved/agreed upon, could you clarify your concerns there?
To the best of my understanding of current cosmology (which is admittedly limited), there is active discussion around the *nature* of the universe’s beginning, but there seems to be pretty widespread agreement that the discussion is needed because there was, in fact, a beginning that we want to to understand.
(PART TWO) With regard to Barker’s main point regarding the kalam begging the question, I don’t even know where to begin. I could criticize the whole construction of his argument from a lot of different angles, but for the sake of argument, let’s just go with how he’s put it together and just start with his conclusion. In order to avoid begging the question in his formulation, he says that theists must answer no to the question: “Is God the only object accommodated by the set of things that do not begin to exist?” To which theists would actually happily reply … no. First off, Barker concedes that theists only need to come up with a theoretical possibility of something other than God as a NBE to avoid this begging the question (“if theists allow the theoretical possibility of an impersonal transcendent object in NBE–and it seems they must allow this, or some other nontheistic hypothesis”), and I don’t know of a single theist who wouldn’t accept something other than God as theoretically a NBE for premise one. The most obvious examples are things like numbers or mathematical truths, but they might also concede as theoretically possible something like “an immaterial aether out there beyond space-time…” Further, a great many theists would happily agree that in real life, not just in theoretical possibility, there exist NBEs other than God per se. The most obvious case in point is actually with Muslims, who believe the Quran is eternal. But even Christian theists would happily agree that NBEs at least in a temporal sense (which is the sense the kalam cares about) aren’t inconsistent with the Christian idea of God. Christians would say something like, “Mathematical truths are eternal ideas in the mind of God” (and ideas are not equivalent to God), and some (ironically) have even argued that the universe is past eternal. So things other than God being past eternal even in real life, much less in theory, is not a problem for most theists. Thus the actual structure of the kalam survives Barker’s critique.
(PART THREE) The next aspect of Barker’s critique in this section is basically the idea that theists haven’t shown that the cause is God. In his conclusion, Barker asks “If no, then what are the other candidates for the cause of the universe, and how have they been eliminated?” (First off, as a side note, this is a strange way of phrasing the objection. The theist doesn’t actually have to show there are other realistic candidates for the cause of the universe, per se, in order to avoid begging the question … they only have to show that there are other potential NBEs). His talk of eliminating other candidates as the cause, which he does throughout, also seems to misunderstand how theists arrive at God as the cause in the kalam, which is not by going, “Can’t be X, can’t by Y, therefore God!” but rather more as a positive case – that is to say, “The cause must have X quality for reason A, quality Y for reason B, quality Z for reason C, but an entity with the qualities of X, Y and Z is simply what we mean when we say God.” But what Barker really wants to know is how defenders of the kalam justify the idea that the cause is an immaterial mind rather than an impersonal force, to which he says, “Craig appears to be justifying the hypothesis of a personal external force via the fact that the natural universe contains complex intelligence and free personal agency–humans, for example–and a creator must be at least as complex as the thing it created.” But this is literally not what Craig – nor any defender of the kalam – argues as to why the the cause must be personal! But what boggles my mind is that Barker actually gives the real reason Craig argues for this earlier in the paper, acknowledges this is the reason that Craig argues for a personal creator, and then doesn’t connect the dots or even bother trying to refute it anywhere in the paper: “Craig argues for a personal creator: “We know that this first event must have been caused. The question is: How can a first event come to exist if the cause of that event exists changelessly and eternally? Why isn’t the effect as co-eternal as the cause? It seems that there is only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to infer that the cause of the universe is a personal agent who chooses to create a universe in time.”” COME ON. Barker ought to be trying to refute this point, not the stupid complexity one. Every section of his paper has problems like this – the whole thing is a disaster, but hopefully this highlights the types of problems I see in it. Again, none of this is to say that there are no valid critiques of the kalam. Clearly there are. This is just not one of them.
CS gives no argument for his comments about the principle of causality He just declares it to be the product of wishful thinking, mentions some advances in biology with no citations, and then considers the matter settled. He hasn’t seriously considered the ramifications of denying the principle of
causality–like if things can just happen with no cause, why doesn’t this happen all the time? The fact that we can even rationally understand the universe at all would be a miracle if things just changed, mutated, stopped working etc. randomly with no cause.
Alex, I love the clear, logical way you build your argument, and your obvious avoidance of mean-spiritedness or the straw-man approaches so disturbingly common to these exchanges.
To your argument: It seems to me that by equating the universe to the group of all things that begin to exist, you are relying on a unique definition of “begin to exist” (that nothing new actually ever began to exist except when its components began to exist along with everything else in the universe, i.e at the Big Bang). The definition appears to be plain old reductionism.
For example, you state, even “ideas are ultimately nothing more than signals in the brain, and hence physical in nature.” This is hardly a settled matter. We actually have no real idea what ideas are, other than what we’ve guessed them to be. Similarly, you assert that your father (hence a human soul with consciousness) is nothing more than the rearrangement of existing matter, a statement which requires an a priori naturalistic assumption about the nature of consciousness.
I enjoyed your article!
You seem to fail to distinguish between efficient, material, formal and final causes, because you fail to distinguish between existence and being. Even Schopenhauer, the great atheist, who had his own debunking of the cosmological argument, did not make the category error conflating material causes with the Aristotelean “efficient cause”, between existence in time and space (according to the principle of sufficient reason, under the law of causality) and being, which is pure idea, the obverse face of the unmanifest and groundless Will. You would do well to read his World as Will and Idea and also his On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Even if you disagreed with Schopenhauer’s philosophy, his analysis of Idealism vs Materialism is brilliant, and takes in the whole sweep of the philosophical history of these ideas.
Also read Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and/or Edward Feser’s summary of the arguments. Feser is no supporter of William Lane Craig’s, but grasps the categorical difference between existence and being, where reality is composite of idea and matter, rather than merely matter lacking any objective or ideal reality, taking on evanescent forms accidentally either as composites of atoms or as convulsions of singular matter in time and space.
Speaking as a Christian, I agree with the thesis of this article. The beginning of the universe (I mean, assuming such a beginning occurred) is an event sui generis. In the nature of the case, we cannot appeal to our experiences, or generalisations therefrom, in order to develop a constraining framework, from the onset, regarding what may or may/not have taken place. I see no a priori reason why an infinite chain of causes, or an eternal universe, or any variants of similar ideas should be excluded as possibilities simply because we have not seen things coming into existence with our eyes in the few hours we have been alive.
Your argument here is cogent and is a sensible application of scepticism to claims that conceal their assumptions with their pedestrian appearance: for this is what it is to speak as if “everything that begins to exist has a cause”, it is to assume that our limited experience is enough to make universal statements about the way things come into existence. This is very naive philosophy and falls to the ground under the criticisms of Hume and Kant. I don’t think Dr. Craig advances this because he is dishonest or foolish—he is clearly a brilliant man. He advances this because he has committed himself to a certain pattern of thinking and cannot see outside of it.
I would recommend to you the writings of Cornelius Van Til and the lectures on philosophy by Greg Bahnsen (available online for not that much, just google) if you want to encounter the only true defense of Christianity that is available after Kant.
Thank you both for this article and for your recent interview with WLC which I enjoyed very much.
A similar objection:- The intuitive appeal of “X began to exist” where X is an everyday object stems from the fact that there is a moment in time at which the object exists and an earlier moment in time at which it did not. This does not apply where X is the universe, since the “beginning” of the universe corresponds to the first moment of time, and so there is no earlier moment at which the universe did not exist. Even if premise 2 retains some intuitive appeal since there is still a first moment at which the universe existed, this distinction between the universe and everyday objects is significant for how we see premise 1. There is no reason why a thing should require a cause if it is impossible to identify a point in time at which it did not exist
I find it interesting to note that (in your interview) WLC defines “begins to exist” such that “X began to exist iff X exists at a time t and t is the *first moment* at which X exists”, rather than “X began to exist iff X exists at time t and there is an *earlier time* u at which X did not exist*”. WLC’s definition therefore hides the distinction just outlined between the universe and everyday objects.
I agree Amari,. We all navigate life (and do science) on the basis of a set of assumptions that rely on circular reasoning (as John Frame puts it). When we are comparing world views we kritique the internal consistency of those world views.
Alex, you wrote “… the first premise, ‘Everything that begins to exist has a cause’ becomes ‘The universe has a cause’ …” based on the notion that only the universe began to exist. But if that basis is true, shouldn’t “ Everything that begins to exist has a cause” actually become “if the universe began to exist then it has a cause?” Then this version of the argument shows no circularity. Rather, it is plainly modus ponens. And putting it like this leaves this premise bare. Sure, the original premise will be used to argue this one, but that is where according to your analysis the circularity exists.
Exactly, look at the debate between Copleston and Russell.
You also should make the distinction between time and creation as a theist might argue even if the universe is eternal it is still created meaning it doesn’t matter to the thrist if it is eternal or has a beginning middle and end. It still has a cause. Nothing begets nothing so we’re does something come from. Where does your cup of coffee come from?
You must guy also ask why you elevate someone like Hitchens? What you get from doing that. Is there such a thing as universal truth? To claim there isn’t in this paper Lance is to make a universal claim. Nonsense.
I saw your podcast with Peter Singer, and got up to where you started making an argument against being able to do something good without wanting pleasure for doing whatever it is that you did. So I’ll introduce something that’ll make you think, to push against your egoistic hedonist argument: replace “pleasure” for “satisfaction,” and your argument for reciprocal altruism gets hazy. The poet who prefers to live a life of sorrow for the sake of writing better poetry could in fact do so for pleasure, as you say. But, it is equally plausible that her preference for sustaining a sorrowful life to the benefit of her poetry is a satisfactory experience. Take someone who has a mental disability, for example. But this disability prohibits them from properly interpreting their own emotions in the way that allows them to identify their own emotions, specifically. Nevertheless, they still have an interest in poetry. Absent of sustained sorrow, in this example, it would be irrelevant. For in order to sustain sorrow, one would have to be able to identify this experience has a sorrowful one. But if they cannot do so; as in, they are unable to do so, yet still have this interest in writing poetry, then the experience of writing good poetry would be a satisfactory one. Not a hedonistic endeavor. So, it is possible to want absent of however it makes you feel with respect to a pleasurable experience.
Dear Cosmic Skeptic.
I seek clarification, [I am not a student of philosophy], does your argument mean that the Kalaam argument is essentially valid but vacuous. It is basically a tautology?
I’m not sure your critique of the kalam argument is really fair, but anyway, the premises you argue for and grant themselves form an argument for the existence of God:
1) Nothing begins to exist ex nihilo; everything that begins to exist depends on something else that already exists to bring it into being (argued in the post)
2) Everything material began to exist (granted in post)
3) Something non-material brought the (material) universe into existence (from 1 and 2)
4) God exists (from 3)
4 does not follow from 3 unless you either (a) add a premise of the form “if non-material things bring material things into existence then God must exist” (or similar) or (b) explicitly define God as “whatever it is that brought the universe into existence”. (b) would be disputed on purely semantic and conventional grounds – that is not how God is defined traditionally – while (a) would need a very lengthy argument to support it, and all such arguments as have so far been attempted have been soundly critiqued in the literature.
I shall try to reach the meaning of the following syllogism, which you propose: “If the universe were created out of preexisting material, we would be left with the question of where this material itself came from, and the argument would prove nothing important. If ‘beginning to exist’ means anything philosophically significant in this context, it must mean beginning to exist ex nihilo.” So, you start off by proposing that if the universe began or has a beginning then the proposition makes sense only as it being founded on the existence of nihil or μηδέν, that is to say, the beginning itself, the being of beginning carries the meaning of the absence itself, or the being of absence. But, already, there is a placelessness easily spotted, right from these first thoughts. And by placelessness, i mean a lack of definition of what is really being said. This placelessness comes or brings it self as we try to consider nihil or no-existence or no-essence as a possible and true place. In other words, to say that a beginning of an existence presupposes a facticity of no-being (μηδέν) is to say that no-being is a being, as it must be a limited thing, if it is to be considered as the thing from/ex (εκ) which a beginning can be. For example, let’s think of a person we love. At some point the person perishes. Now, the absence of the person can only be if the person already was known, and not the opposite. Thus, we cannot miss something that wasn’t known to us. In that sense the understanding of presence leads and enables the understanding of absence. That is to say, that ex nihilo cannot be, if something hasn’t been understood already to exist where nihilo now stands. Nihil, always means the absence of something, already understood in a way. So, nihil ot the no-being Is only as long as being Is. Therefore, we must have nihilo ex existentio and not existentio ex nihilo, or in an other context, chao ab ordo and not ordo ab chao. But now, the question comes by force; Are existence and beginning the same thing? What does it mean, for something to begin? We say, I began my day happy, I begin to see that things are not the same, I will begin the journey. We see that the word “begin” carries with it, the meaning of something that opens up, it signifies an opening, that is to say, a revealment. Now, what is being revealed, is revealed as our own revealment, while, at the same time, it reveals ourselves to the world, to others. For example, when I say, I an beginning to have feelings, I mean that feelings reveal themselves to me, and, the same time, that I am revealing myself to the feelings. Also, the meanings of revealment or opening which we derive through the inquiry of the word “begin”, lead to a somehow, more mystical door, which leads to the meaning of that which already was, but wasn’t known to us. For example, when we say the morning began, we already mean that the sun has revealed itselm or himself, but this doesn’t mean that what is being revealed and brings the morning is stopping to exist before its revealment. And this we know, because when we see the first light, we know that after some time, we will see the sun. Thus, we know, that the sun hasn’t stopped to exist, but for some period of the day, which we call night, we couldn’t see it or him. What remains secret to us entirely, is where the sun is going at night or when it or him disappears. I am not gonna delve into this region, here, nor to any explanation of any science or other wisdom. Apart from this, then, we can understand that the meaning or revealment carries us to the meaning of unconcealment or apo-calypse (απο-κάλυψη > of/off – concealment/coverment) or ec-calypse (εκ-κάλυψη > from/due to – concealment/coverment). To conclude, then, It seems that, “begin”, through the meanings of revealment, openning and unconcealment, is, in fact, being understood as “begin to be”, that is to say, that begin signals the passing from concealment to unconcealment, the revealment and openning of something.
I am no logician, but Alex’s point seems fair enough to me. But there are two points I should like to raise (having recently watched a video on Youtube from some years ago in which Alex debated, with a moderator, a young American Christian on the subject ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?):
1) The question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ seems to contain it in the assumption that ‘nothing’ is the default state, that ‘nothing’ is somehow more probable than ‘something’. But why should it be? One might try asking instead, ‘Why isn’t there nothing rather than something?’
2) The whole argument about ‘nothing’ and ‘something’ seems, for someone like myself who has lived in the Far East for nearly fifty years, to be quite extraordinarily parochial and to derive from the obsessions of the Abrahamic religions. Is it not possible to step outside the framework, and framing, of these religions? There is a world elsewhere.
Great refutation. “Rearrangement of matter and energy” has been conflated with “ex nihilo cause”.
Significant though is Alex’s acknowledgement that it is “plausible” that “this variety of matter and energy constantly rearranging itself must itself, collectively, have an origin [which] would consist in the very beginning of the universe itself, when all matter simultaneously began to exist”, across the whole of space and time I would add.
The human creation of new holistic unites with new functionalities relative to human values not our biological niche might help the argument in that direction.
The so-called “Big Bang” occurred when consciousness entered the void. Matter did NOT explode outward, but rather consciousness was torn apart from the void. There is no such thing as matter. You cannot create something from nothing. Scientists know that matter is not made of matter. Understand what consciousness really is, and EVERYTHING will start to unfold and reveal itself to you. It’s all very simple actually, but very, very few people actually understand this. Consciousness is not a product of biology. Biology is a product of consciousness.
Ever hear of the Seth material? It’ll twist your brain. https://youtu.be/roiHmkvBStY
Love your work, Alex. I am an atheist too, if an atheist is one who does not believe in skyhooks. However, as a former philosophy student, I have to disagree with your paper here. It seems you have misunderstood the kalãm. You write,
“If ‘beginning to exist’ means anything philosophically significant in this context, it must mean beginning to exist ex nihilo.”
This is false. Imagine a bit of motion in your mind’s eye, this motion must have a starting point. Then you go to this point and ask, “Where did it come from?” When you follow the kalãm argument through, you will arrive at a point which contains all points, a timeless singularity. If you don’t arrive at this point, then you need to train your mind’s eye a bit further.
This is the whole of the kalãm: you arrive at a timeless point.
It is true that the kalãm suffers from the old notion that is causality. Nobody believes in cause and effect anymore, except the ignorant. That is, the universe is not divided into fragments, which means you cannot form the picture that is cause and effect. If we conceptually divide the universe into parts, we get paradoxes like: Where do the inside stop and the outside begin? The old, Greek philosopher was so puzzled by this, so he invented the door to shut everybody up. The universe does not know any paradox, which means it is not fragmented. In short: we can throw the cause and the effect out the window. Still, we can replace cause and effect with motion and the kalãm makes sense once more.
“only, it didn’t really begin to exist at all, rather it was the product of a rearrangement of preexisting matter.”
This is false. Your coffee, which is the preexisting matter, must have a starting point, unless you believe that everything can start in medias res.
“To reiterate, for philosophical relevance the kalãm argument must deal with things that begin to exist from nothing.”
False. It is clear that it is from timelessness. Timelessness is not the same as the concept of nonexistence.
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed,”
There you go!
“It says nothing whatsoever,”
False. The kalãm takes you irrefutably to a timeless point.
William Lane Craig’s point is that this timelessness must have a will in order to create the universe and avoid the infinite regress paradox at the same time. To this date, Craig is the undisputed champion. Nobody has debunked the kalãm. It is a pipedream to believe that anyone has. I have tried to debunk it. But since I am a nobody in the eyes of the world, nobody has ever read my argument for why existence is.
It would be awesome if you gave me some feedback.
Here is the link if you ever have the time: https://www.quora.com/What-is-your-review-of-Answering-Atheism-Book-by-Trent-Horn/answer/Thor-Fabian-Pettersen
And here: https://www.quora.com/Is-there-any-nothingness/answer/Thor-Fabian-Pettersen
If anybody here appreciates a great movie, check out Inherit The Wind. The 1960 version is the best, but the later version is quite good, and it’s free on YouTube. https://youtu.be/NYCfo4hVolQ
Began to exist need not be restricted in meaning to coming into existence from absolute nothingness. Here it might be of benefit to use the language Aristotelian metaphysics. Being is that which exists. Beings don’t just exist but exist in a particular way, as a dog, a man, a horse, etc. The particular way of existing is called essence. That which determines the essence is form. I think that’s what Alex was referring to when he said ‘arrangement of parts’. A particular essence can cease to exist (corruption) and give way to another essence (generation). Example: Paper when burned ceases to exist and generates charcoal. Before burning, charcoal was not there. It’s nothing as charcoal. Charcoal had no being before burning. After burning, the paper is no more. It’s nothing as paper. So when we say that charcoal began to exist after the burning of paper, we are saying that a new form has emerged, ergo also a new essence. The efficient cause is what brings about the change in form. Formal change brings about a new being or causes something to begin to exist and another to cease to exist.
From ordinary experience we see many examples of the truth contained in ” What begins to exist has a cause” . I put a glass of water in the freezer. The water freezes. The water froze because the low temperature of the freezer caused the molecules of water to rearrange. But water became subjected to the low temperature because I put it inside the freezer. A soccer player kicks the ball. The ball shoots up into the air and moves toward the goal. These examples generate the insight that ” For every effect there is a cause.” By effect we mean any change. To begin to exist is a change, either a formal change or the acquisition of form by absolute nothingness. The first is second matter acquiring form. The second is first matter acquiring form. First matter is absolute nothingness. Second matter is matter with pre-existing form, an essence.
The mind loves complexity. Wisdom loves simplicity. The truth resides in simplicity.
You are pure consciousness, which is awareness. Awareness always was, always is, and always will be. Then we have this thing called energy. Energy is the only thing that All That Is ever created, yet it is everything. This energy is “outside” of pure consciousness and is used by souls to create an illusionary landscape in order to have experiences. Awareness/Energy/Experience. Your experiences lead you to deeper insights about your surrounding world, and more importantly, about yourself. The entire setup of Earth and life, was intended to help you remember who you really are as a soul, not as a human. It was designed to help you realize that all energy is actually yours and that you were always a sovereign being.
Earth has served it’s purpose.
“Awareness always was, always is, and always will be. ”
This does not describe my awareness. My awareness went away only last night. Thank goodness in came back again this morning. And why should any other awareness be different from mine. I have not yet even confirmed that there is an awareness other than mine.
In your dialogue with Dr. Craig, Alex, I got the impression that you were saying that the arrangement of parts is extrinsic to the thing that begins to exist. If you will recall Aristotle’s composition of corporeal beings, Being = Form + Matter. Form (the arrangement of parts) is intrinsic to the being of a particular essence. It’s what makes it what it is. Of course, as you said, the form is ‘imposed’ on the essence by the efficient cause.
You are too focused on the creation itself. The creation was intended for you to understand who YOU are, not the matter within it. You existed long before “matter” existed.
Creation didn’t start at the beginning.
Creation started at the END.
Science is the study of the creation.
Evolution is the slow march back towards the creator.
The experiencer meets the creator.
They are both you.
Ascension is when the human reunites with his/her soul while in the creation.
Reblogged this on THE ACADEMY OF SECULAR THOUGHT .
You’ve made an amazing point about something very profound. I want you to really feel into the meaning of “awareness.” I promise you that “your” awareness never goes anywhere. Awareness is the cause of all things and experiences, and the last time that awareness tried to get away from itself, a little thing called the Big Bang happened. This was the creation of The Land of Separation, or at least the belief in separation. It is a dream of All That Is. A dream is when consciousness is unaware of it’s origin, and it’s unaware that it is both the creator and the experiencer. The really crazy thing is that ultimately there are not multiple dreamers. . .there is only one. There are many souls, but there is only one consciousness, one dream, one dreamer, and one awareness. Consciousness CAN NOT separate itself, nor can it move.
If my awareness does not go anywhere then there must be times – and places – that I am not aware of it. And if I am not aware of my own awareness, then it does not exist. The one thing I can say for certain about my awareness is that if it exists then I will be … well … aware of it. Everything else is sophistry and speculation. I was not aware of the Big Bang taking place. So either the Big Bang never took place, or it did take place and my awareness did not exist at the time. And if my awareness did not exist at the time of the Big Bang then it had no influence on it.
You ARE awareness.
So if I am not aware, then I don’t exist. Correct?
It is utterly impossible NOT to be aware. Awareness does not turn on and off–it always is. This is your core and your absolute truth. I AM that I am. I am aware, so therefore I exist. You will still be aware even after you die. It’s like a light in your house that is always on, but there is no light switch to turn it off. You can’t ever turn it off. Ponder this for a few days or weeks and see what happens. Did you not exist when you typed your question?
Did I exist when I typed my question? Yes.
Did I exist when the dinosaurs existed? No.
Which means either (a) There are times that I exist and times that I don’t exist, which in turn means I don’t always exist (the light is not always on, contrary to your claim)
OR (b) The dinosaurs did not exist (contrary to the claims of modern science)
It’s irrelevant if dinosaurs existed or not, but lets pretend they did. You may not have existed as a human, but you did exist. You existed long before dinosaurs and you existed before time and Earth existed. And yes, the light is always on. You ARE that light. Why are you trying to make an argument that you don’t exist? By definition of nonexistence, there is no such thing as nonexistence.
I was not aware of existing before time and Earth. And I am not aware of existing as anything other than a human. But if existence=awareness (which is your claim) then I am not aware of being aware. Sounds like a total contradiction to me.
Awareness=existence. This is not just a claim, it’s reality. The reason why you don’t remember your past experiences or lifetimes is intentional. It’s known as Tabula Rasa. If you were to carry all of your experiences, memories, traumas, and baggage, from one lifetime to the next, it would be detrimental to your soul’s development. If you like to read, read The Red Lion by Maria Szepes. This is an excellent book that will help give you some insight on this.
Your soul DOES remember. When your soul, which is you, agreed to incarnate as a human, it didn’t bring all of its consciousness into the human form. The soul dedicated only a tiny portion of itself for the human emanation. The rest of your consciousness resides on the so-called “other side” of the “veil.” Your soul has many other emanations as we speak, and they are all you. Because of this intentional veil, you don’t see or remember your soul. But your soul sees and remembers you–it IS you. This is how we created an “anything goes” type of stage for souls to act out on. This is why there is so much discord. Free will at its finest. It’s basically just a big damn Shakespearean play.
“Your soul DOES remember”. But I don’t remember. And I am my soul. So I remember and I don’t remember.
Seriously, Brian, I really don’t think you have thought through your “philosophy” very carefully.
It’s esoteric information. It’s for those who can comprehend it. It’s also for those who are willing to consider it. It’s your choice if you choose to be neither. But as the days and years go by, and as interesting and unexpected things start happening in our strange world, you might wish that you had at least considered it.
You are not the human form. You are not your thoughts or your emotions. You are not your false, self-given identities. You are the awareness behind these things.
Awareness is the cause of ALL THINGS.
This is not a theory.
That, frankly, was really bad. Just swap the first 2 premises in the original argument to get around Alex’s objection.
P1: The universe began to exist.
P2: Whatever begins to exist, must have a cause.
C: The universe has a cause.
That case is more closed than my briefcase in my closet. Hint: my briefcase is closed.
Circularity ultimately is a problem for atheism.
An atheist, for instance will say something like the following: “I base my beliefs upon evidence”. Where then, is the evidence for this? What evidence is there that one ought to base one’s beliefs on evidence?
A similar problem can be applied to logic itself. Why should we base our views on logic? Any argument you make presupposes logic and is therefore a circular argument. The same applies for a number of presuppositions that lie behind a materialistic worldview. At a meta-level they are just asserted with circular justification, or without any justification.
So not only are atheists and theists similar in the regard of not having justification for major assertions and presuppositions in their worldview. I would posit that God provides a justification for logic, numbers, and so forth, as they are emmanations from Him. In Exodus when God is revealed to Moses He says ‘I AM that I AM’—which is a circular argument. “God just is” then from this we can justify these other things. So in this respect I would argue that the theistic perspective is superior, because it posits one circle at the bottom of the worldview, rather than numerous circular assertions.
Why can’t the atheist say that logic “just is”, or the need for evidence “just is”? Why are theists allowed to terminate their line of enquiry (at God) while atheists are not? Who is making up these rules?
Well I didn’t say you can’t do that, my point was that you get to a similar point in the atheistic worldview with a number of things. ‘Numbers just are’ or ‘I just believe the external world is real and the senses are reliable’ etc. So if you really dig deep in the atheistic worldview you get to all kinds of things like this, that are just granted without justification. Whilst atheists will critique theists for having beliefs that they cannot justify, this is ultimately true of atheists. My argument is that theism is superior because rather than a number of unjustified presuppositions it relies upon just one. Logic, numbers, consistency in nature, the external world and what-have-you are justified in God.
Theism is not a superior position. It is a vastly inferior position to anything that science provides.
What is your basis for believing one thing ‘superior’ and another ‘inferior’, by which I mean what is your criteria for making this judgement?
So the question is not “which position has a starting point?” Let us assume that both positions have a starting point. For atheism the starting point is logic. For theism the starting point is a person who can create logic as an act of will (and presumably remove it as an act of will too). The question then becomes which starting point is the more “reasonable” to accept. What do you think? Is it reasonable to assume that logically true statements are necessarily true? Or is it more reasonable to assume that some particular person exists, already possessed of knowledge and the capacity to act in the world, and also the ability to create and deny logical truths at will?
If we allow ourselves (as atheists do) to assume that logic is necessarily true then theism is ruled out immediately, because theism is a logically incoherent position. A being who can create or destroy logic at will would have to be logically incoherent, would it not? This is what makes atheism the superior position.
Well if logic is an emanation of God then it is a part of Him and is thus not necessarily an external thing that is subject to change at His will. Thus the necessity of logic is an extension of the necessity of God.
But anyway back to my question, you seem to have stated that science is the provider of what you define as a ‘superior’ worldview. I’m just curious about where within science you can derive notions of ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’? Because surely science just delivers the facts. An ant is not superior or inferior to a catepillar or a human, or a rock, they are just different configurations of matter. Any idea of inferiority or superiority is a judgement applied using some other standard. So I’m just curious as to where the standard that a worldview based on science is superior is derived?
Just to elabourate a little more on my reply, in Christian theology Christ is the Logos, which means a part of His being is being that which makes sense of reality, gives it coherence, and meaning. So to me the notion that God could negate this is not in line with Christian theology. To say God can change logic is to say that He can make Himself not exist, or not God which is anathema to me because God necessarily exists.
Think of philosophy as a kind of game. To play any game the players have to agree on the rules. If they don’t agree on the rules they can’t play the game. It doesn’t matter where the rules come from, as long as both players agree with them. I play tennis. I have no idea who made the rules of tennis. I don’t care. I have agreed to play by the rules, wherever they came from, so I can play.
The starting point for theism is that God (as defined by traditional theology) exists. I don’t agree to that rule. If God exists, that existence must be rationally argued for (“proven” if you like – though “proof” may be too strong a concept). For science and other rational enquiry the starting point is logic and the various other rules of inference and argumentation. I agree with these rules. At this stage my question for you is “do you agree with these rule?” If the answer is “no” then we can terminate the discussion right now as there is no conceivable basis on which it can proceed. If the answer is “yes” the discussion can go ahead. We don’t need to discuss where the rules came from.
So at this point the question is not “which position is ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’?” The question is “do you agree to play the game (of rational enquiry) by the rules?”
Now once we agree to these rules (assuming we do) we can see immediately that theism is ruled out (or, at least, is implausible), because (a) there are no good arguments for the conclusion that God exists and (b) there are several good arguments (the Problem of Evil, the Divine Hiddenness argument, etc) for the conclusion that God does not exist. It is here that we see the superiority of atheism over theism, not with any discussion surrounding the origin of the rules of enquiry.
But the whole argument is about justification of a belief. The atheists arguing “you have no justification for a belief in God.”
So to my mind it is relevant that an atheist cannot justify belief in the external world, the consistency and uniformity of the laws of nature, logic etc. You’re saying “just give me those things and then I can win the game” I’m saying without those things you cannot claim any knowledge with certainty. So at the very least you must concede that as far as having worldviews based in things that have no justification atheism and theism both suffer from this issue.
In so far as things like the problem of evil, the atheist wants to be granted a position of there being such a thing as evil as a position to argue from, but their worldview cannot justify that. It’s like the atheist wants to play Monopoly but be given all the money and the properties from the start, so they can win. My point is merely that two can play the game of “you have no justification or evidence for what you believe in” but when you point that out to an atheist they just want to be granted all their presuppositions so they can be right. To my mind it doesn’t work like that.
OK, consider as an example “belief in the external world” (which you raised). In order to believe that God exists (as an external reality) you must first believe that there is an external reality. Justification for belief in external reality cannot “emanate from God” (or any such jargon). Belief in an external reality is logically prior to belief in God. This is not optional – nothing else makes any sense at all. In other words the theist is in exactly the same position as the atheist in relation to this question. Not an analogous position. EXACTLY the same position. The atheist must believe in an external reality before they can believe science stuff, the theist must believe in external reality BEFORE they believe in God.
To put this another way: the atheist DOES have a justification for belief in external reality – the same justification that anyone (theist or atheist) has for belief in external reality, which must come before any specific belief in specific external things. If you feel this justification is inadequate for the atheist, it is inadequate for the theist as well. We have to agree that belief in external reality is justified before any further discussion on such topics (as God, or science, or anything else external) can proceed. Once that agreement is in place we can move on. I can, however, consistently DISAGREE that God is part of external reality, unless ADDITIONAL justification for that position is provided (hence the statement “you have no justification for a belief in God”).
On the Problem of Evil: the atheist does not need to justify belief in evil (though I dispute that they can’t – another discussion). They merely have to use the theist’s own concept of evil. The theistic position is inherently and internally self contradictory on this issue. Of course we do have to be able to say that inherent internal contradictions are fatal to any logically consistent position, but as we have seen this is just a matter of agreeing on the rules of the game.
I would say it is the same position, without God both the theist and the atheist can’t really claim any knowledge. The Christian theist like myself however would claim that knowledge is revealed by God. This is the additional justification.
You don’t use the theistic standard of evil to analyse God because the theistic standard is that God is the standard of good. Anything you might posit based of human action, or the natural world is assuming a certain standard of good within an atheistic framework because the Christian theistic framework does not attribute these things to God, but to man. So the argument is made with atheistic assumptions which are not present in the viewpoint of Christian theism.
But anyway, that aside, my contention is that at the very least theism and atheism both equally suffer from taking an unjustified initial step out of the dark. So the main contention that atheists level at theists (major assumptions at the basis of their worldview) is applicable to themselves. A theist will, in my instance at least, admit that God is an assumption made without evidential support, but is one that is used to make sense of everything. The atheist on the other hand will often be blind to their own unjustified assumptions and just keep asserting “where is your evidence?” Well where is the evidence that evidence is the standard for belief? Or for not being a brain in a vat? We both make these leaps away from that darkness from within we must say we cannot know anything and we both do it without justification. It’s just that you take issue with how theists do it. However you cannot use the fact that theists do it as an argument because atheists do the same thing but in a different way.
I am entitled to ask you to justify your belief in something if it is a belief I do not share, especially if you expect me to adopt the same belief (which many Christians do). On the other hand you are not entitled to ask me to justify my belief if it is a belief you DO share – such as the belief in external reality – especially if you do not have a justification for it yourself. Theist and atheists share a set of genuinely basic, unjustified beliefs. The difference is that theists add an extra set of beliefs that SHOULD be justified but are not.
I’m not expecting you to do anything.
My argument is that God is the grounding for this set of unjustified beliefs, so He is the singular, unified explanation for all of them. Rather than a set of different assumptions that are independently asserted without justification. So rather than X number of unjustifiable assertions, there is just 1 from the theistic position.
Now you might say well you have no justification for that. Yeah, that’s my point. But you have no justification behind any claim to knowledge about anything. Theism is thus more coherent. Logic, numbers, the external world, love, morality and other such transcendent things are justified in God, and we know God through His revelation to us.
Without this grounding you just end up in a position of truth being annihilated… All you can say is ‘well in some form I can suppose I exist, aside from that everything else is based on assumption’ You might say these are reasonable assumptions, but then you are pulling reason out of thin air. Epistemic nihilism is the only solidly grounded worldview given the atheistic presuppositions. Yet atheists do not act like that is the case, they consistently assert knowledge and truth as being things they have access to.
I’d say that they are correct, knowledge and truth do exist and they are grounded in God. You might object and say ‘well you have no way of knowing that’, well okay but you have no way of knowing anything. At least the theistic worldview is internally consistent enough to provide a coherent basis of making claims to knowledge.
God cannot “ground” such things as logic, number or the existence of external reality, nor can belief in God “ground” belief in logic, number or external reality as God depends on these things being true before his existence (if he exists) even makes sense. For example, in traditional Christian theology (at least some versions of it) God is thought of as a “trinity” – ie three persons in one God. But this idea cannot make any sense (whatever sense it does make) unless you already have a concept of number – the numbers 3 and 1 in particular.
So when you say that atheists have multiple basic things they accept without justification while you only have one, that is simply untrue. You have the same set of multiple basic beliefs, and then you add one more. If parsimony and simplicity are what you are looking for, atheism would seem to be closer to that ideal.
To that I would say that oneness and multiplicity are grounded in the Triune God precisely for that reason. This is precisely why the Christian God is superior to other versions of monotheism, precisely because within the mystery of the Godhead is oneness and multiplicity and thus a grounding for numbers.
My main point is that logically consistent atheism is the same thing as epistemic nihilism. It is a position without any metaphysical grounding. So even if I were discard my contention that theism is superior for having a metaphysical grounding that averts epistemic nihilism, my point stands that the charge levelled at theists ‘where is your proof!’ or ‘you can’t justify your beliefs’ can equally be levelled at atheists. Having unmet burdens in regard to justification is something that unites theists and atheists.
I would say that a position which leads to epistemic nihilism, and thus undermines its own capacity to determine truth, has no grounding for objective morality, and ultimately no purpose or meaning is an incoherent position to hold, and certainly not one that anyone could practically live their life by without assuming things are otherwise.
So it would seem that, by your own admission, theism also leads to “epistemic nihilism” as there is no ULTIMATE justification for belief in anything – including God. For you, what makes theism superior is that it has fewer “things” that one must believe without justification. But why is having fewer things an important factor? That is just another belief that you hold without justification. I could equally contend that what is important is having things that are simple. So while the atheist believes in a handful of unjustified things like logic, numbers, external reality and one or two others, the theist believes in one unjustified but really complicated thing that has the (mysterious and inexplicable) ability to “emanate” all of those other things, as well as having other properties such as, omnipotence, omniscience, having 3 persons (rather than 5 or 27) in the “godhead”, parting the Red Sea for Moses, etc, etc, etc.
I repeat my previous suggestion. We need to start with a set of rules in order to play the game (of rational enquiry). I suggest those rules include belief in logic, number and external reality. Don’t worry about where those things come from. As long as we agree to play by those rules, it doesn’t matter where they come from. Don’t worry about “epistemic nihilism”. Its going to be part of any set of beliefs anyway, so you might as well not worry about it. If we agree to those rules we can keep playing the game and see where it leads. If not we might as well stop playing now.
Well I would say that it doesn’t lead to epistemic nihilism, but you disagree with my reasons for positing that. My view is that God is the essential being that roots all metaphysics, and my justification for that is it is more coherent than saying ‘we have no grounding for any metaphysics, but we just have to assume certain things and move on’. To my mind the latter is ultimately a position that undermines all ability to claim any knowledge or truth. You may contest that I am adding to these foundational assumptions, but I would posit that I am refining them into one. So your charge is that you make X no. of foundational assumptions, and I make X + 1 right? My contention is that I make 1 and this foundation is what we are assuming when we ‘just assume’ logic or numbers etc. These assumptions are not separate from the necessary assumption that is God. You may say I have no proof for my proposed unification of all these foundational assumptions, however I would merely say that you have no proof that proof is even a standard for anything, nor any ability to claim any knowledge whatsoever. I’m saying God has to exist in order for there to be any meaning, or truth, or knowledge about anything, and the rejection of that is the rejection of those things.
I’m not using this as an ad-hominim by the way, I don’t mean to say you at a personal level don’t know anything, I am saying of course you do, and in my view that is because God exists. If not then you are in the dark. You can say I’m doing some kind of sophistry or whatever, and you can reject my argument if you please, but even if I were to concede your rejection, it is a fundamental reality that, if that is the case, both the theist and the atheist are guilty of the charge of having beliefs that they cannot justify. So I would say, this being so, the charge that theism is a inferior position because it does so is unfounded, and it is often the case that an atheist will argue ‘you have no justification for a belief in God.’ You have no justification for logic etc. At the level of grounding fundamental beliefs the atheist is lacking, yet they argue as though this is not the case. Have a good week
Proving that what begins to be must have a cause is sufficient for the argument to be valid. So, if men begin to exist, there must be a cause, whether considered with regard to the body or the soul. Let us consider with regard to the body: Its immediate cause is the parents. We cannot, however, continue ad infinitum in this succession; nor arguing from evolution theory. Therefore, there must have been a first matter. Or, in other words, a matter first began to exist. This, then, is enough to prove the point in question. For if a thing first began to exist from a cause, and could not otherwise exist, then secondary things either were transformed from it, or also began to be out of nothing. In any case, a First Cause is absolutely necessary. Since to say that any matter is eternal is an absurdity. For what then is meant by “matter”?
This is an irrefutable argument:
If something began to exist out of nothing, there must be a First Cause.
At least something in the Universe began to exist out of nothing.
Therefore, there must be a First Cause.
Because the fact that at least something in the Universe began to exist out of nothing is quite obvious, for the things in it are limited, and therefore at least something in it had a beginning out of nothing, and that from something that has none of its limitations. For otherwise it could not be the origin of something, for it would itself need to have its origin from another, which succession cannot proceed ad infinitum, since infinity does not permit succession.
Therefore, there must have been at least something that came into being out of nothing, that is, from absolute non-existence, not from any pre-existing matter, and by something that has not its limitations, none of them. For, since this something that came into being had no existence before at all, and there was no existence like its, with limitations, it came out of nothing, it being infinitely inferior to its Cause. Or, in other words, there must be a First Cause, itself unlimited, that is, without the limitations found in what it causes, which First Cause is, then, necessarily eternal (not limited in and by time), so that what came to be came by it, and at least what came first came out of nothing.
Interesting article, but I’m not sure I buy your reasoning. Two things occur to me; First, we have seen plenty of things begin to exist since a change of state is still a valid beginning. So what is the rational that an ex nihilo beginning should be an exception to the observable norm. Second (and more importantly), ideas are ex nihilo beginnings. You say “ideas are ultimately nothing more than signals in the brain” but this is a purely materialist view and doesn’t line up with the immerging view that the universe, at it’s most fundamental, is made of information. Matter is interchangeable and is far less important than the information (order of arrangement) of the matter. It is the information that makes a generic substance (matter) into something specific with meaning. Information is not physical. Certainly, it is REPRESENTED physically. But the physical representation is not the information itself. This is even a legal fact (think about intellectual property laws). Information is timeless and has no mass and it is only acted upon by space-time when an instance of it is created in our physical universe. A purely materialistic view of the universe denies IP and causes problems like the Theseus’ paradox. All this to say, ideas are ex nihilo beginnings.