This essay is a rejoinder to a paper written by Theodore Schick, Jr., Professor of Philosophy, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania. The 1998 paper is entitled *"The 'Big Bang' Argument for the Existence of God"* and is a rebuttal to the views held by Hugh Ross, noted astronomer and Christian apologist, as expressed within his book *The Creator and the Cosmos*. The paper was originally published in *Philo, the Journal of the Society of Humanist Philosophers*.
The impetus of Dr. Schick's paper is to discredit Dr. Ross's contention that the acceptance of the theory of the "big bang" as the beginning of the universe implies that it must have had a cause beyond the event itself, and Dr. Schick's corollary contention that such an assertion is nothing but a scientifically updated variation of St. Thomas Aquinas's "uncaused first cause" argument to prove the existence of God. As blasphemous as it might sound coming from a Catholic such as me, I acknowledge that Aquinas's reasoning left something to be desired in this case. I don't contest Dr. Schick's views on this point.
As a Catholic high school student, I once had the effrontery to ask a priest in religion class, "If it is sufficient to assert that 'God always was, always is and always will be' then why can't we just say the same about the universe?" (The priest's response was less than memorable.) In his paper, Dr. Schick echoes my youthful inquisitiveness:
"But if we're willing to admit the existence of uncaused things, why not just admit that the universe is uncaused and cut out the middleman? David Hume wondered the same thing...."
The meat of Dr. Schick's rebuttal to Dr. Ross's views is that Dr. Ross positions a higher dimensional time, a time in which the spacetime that we know and live within was created: the creator's time. Since the big bang is held to be the beginning of time, Dr. Ross argues, that implies it must have had a cause, as did the beginning of everything else. Since the big bang is the beginning of our time, then its cause cannot have been within our time (because an effect must follow its cause); rather, it must have been within the higher dimensional time of the creator that Dr. Ross positions.
Dr. Schick rebuts this argument as follows:
"This argument arrives at the conclusion that the universe has a beginning in time by assuming that the universe has a cause. But the big bang argument uses the premise that the universe has a beginning in time to arrive at the conclusion that the universe has a cause. So Ross is arguing in a circle. He is assuming that the universe has a cause to prove that the universe has a cause. Because Ross begs the question about whether the universe has a cause, he does not succeed in proving the existence of a higher dimensional time, let alone the existence of a transcendental god."
Dr. Schick is correct. It is, therefore, my intention within this essay to attempt to provide the justification that Dr. Ross's argument lacks to assume that the big bang (and, therefore, the universe) had a cause. For the benefit of my argument, I appeal to none other than perhaps the most venerated, self-professed atheist in scientific history, Albert Einstein himself! It is an understatement to judge it ironic that I perceive that such a renowned atheist proved, albeit unwittingly, the existence of God or, more precisely, a creator of at least some sort.
It was Hermann Minkowski, Dr. Einstein's erstwhile math teacher, who first pointed out to him that his special theory of relativity implied a four-dimensional universe, now usually referred to as the "block universe." In this scheme of reality, time is reduced to a mere fourth dimension, with the result being that the universe can no longer be viewed as being composed of space and time, but rather as an unified structure called "spacetime," with all events within the universe (including particles seemingly being created without a cause via vacuum fluctuations) occurring at the confluence of four-dimensional points.
(For example: September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center at the precise floor and instant that the first plane hit.)
Dr. Einstein himself was at first most reluctant to accept such a view of reality, but eventually came to embrace it. Here lies the point most relevant to the thrust of this essay: Within the block universe scheme of reality, the past, present and future of spacetime all exist contemporaneously and there is no privileged moment within spacetime solely entitled to call itself "the present" or "now."
(Some attempt to argue that such a view is a misinterpretation of the theory. However, Dr. Einstein himself certainly seemed to accept its validity as there is a letter written by him to the widow of a recently late associate in which he attempts to comfort her by pointing out that her late husband and she were presently enjoying many happy moments together in other parts of the universe. )
I think it can be safely asserted that we all accept the existence of the phenomenon of cause and effect. For every baby (effect) there was a transaction (cause) between a sperm and an egg. But here is the rub: If the past, present and future all exist contemporaneously, and if by definition a cause must precede its effect, then how could the cause in this example have preceded its effect when the baby and his or her parents exist contemporaneously and eternally?
The only tenable answer that I can discern is: it didn't. That is, it didn't in our spacetime. Just as a painting's obvious orderly composition did not result from any event within the canvass, but rather from order imposed from without (i.e., by the artist), the undeniable order that permeates our reality and renders our very existences possible must likewise have been imposed from without, by a creator of some sort.
The concept of cause and effect implies a sequential creation. If the universe is static (with motion (and change) being a mere illusion--exactly as Parmenides and Zeno argued--, along the lines of a motion picture rendering the illusion of motion from a series of still frames), then nothing within our spacetime could have been created within it any more than a now static Rembrandt masterpiece could have created and ordered itself.
Rather, the reality that we live within and perceive must have been sequentially created (thus accounting for the obvious causes and effects we observe) in a higher dimensional time, exactly as Dr. Ross argues, and then became static, exactly as a painting does upon completion. Quite simply, a cause must precede its effect within existence, which cannot be the case if both the cause and the effect have always existed simultaneously.
As a thought experiment, assume that the characters within a novel could somehow gain sentience and intelligence, and that their universe, contained within the pages of the book, seems just as real to them as our universe (or "multiverse" if the MWI of quantum mechanics should be correct in fact) does to us (in our higher dimensional time). Unless the author was able and chose to communicate with his or her creations, then by what means would they have to discover the true nature and origin of their existences other than by deducing that whatever logic and order they perceive must have been imposed from without, as to them their universe appears simply to have always been and thus cannot have been created within its own dimension of time?
The alternative would be for them to reason as Dr. Schick and many others do. That is, that their--unbeknownst to them--literary universe simply "just is." In this hypothetical scenario, they would be very wrong; just as I believe Dr. Schick and others are for the reasons I have presented. Dynamic forces cannot exist within a stagnant universe. To argue otherwise would be a contradiction in terms. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that the dynamic force that forged our now static universe via causes and effects (i.e., the laws of physics) must have come from without.
How then can one account for the creator's origin? How can one avoid an infinite regress of creators? That is what I term the "ultimate mystery" of existence. How can anything exist at all? As incomprehensible as the mystery is, the only answer I can suggest is that somewhere along the line, someone or something "just is," and in his, her or its plane of existence the answer to these questions can be scientifically fathomed as they cannot be here within the logic of our reality.