Converging and Convincing Proof of God: At the Limits of Science
For the next several articles, we will focus upon empirical experience
Working backwards from the universe's current expansion, the classical Big Bang theory strongly suggests that there was an infinite point of beginning of the universe, in both space and time, before which there was no space and no time, the Hawking-Penrose singularity. Before this time, there was no physical universe in time and place. Since nothing comes from nothing, and there is before the Big Bang a physical nothing, we are left with the reasonable and responsible proposal that behind the Big Bang is a transcendental Something, which is to say, God.
For the next several articles, we will focus upon empirical experience. In other words, we will focus on science and modern physics, and see what our scientific knowledge of the physical world, in particular theories about its history and its origin, might suggest about God's existence as transcendent Creator.
Much of our discussion will be guided by the insights of the book New Proofs for the Existence of God by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J. For those interested in more detail, I would suggest starting off by acquiring a copy of that book. These are some difficult, complex matters that cannot be discussed in a proverbial tea cup, much less a two-page article, and I intend only to address them in a most perfunctory manner.
Proofs based on scientific knowledge are, to some extent, limited by our current state of scientific knowledge. They are therefore perhaps less stable than those metaphysically-based proofs with which we dealt in earlier articles, and which concerned common human experiences which are part and parcel of our very nature such as love, desire for truth, the idea of perfection as real, the sense of moral obligation, hope, joy, and various aspects of the human condition, such as angst, fragility of life, our sense that we are an enigma to ourselves, and religious mysticism.
At the same time, new developments in physics--in particular in our current knowledge of the beginning of our universe--have allowed us "new proofs" that were not available prior to the current state of scientific knowledge. In some cases, advances in the sciences have given life to old proofs.
In this article, we will focus on the classic formulation of Big Bang cosmology. In the classical formulation of the Big Bang theory, first proposed in germ by the Belgian Catholic scientist and priest Fr. Georges Lemaitre, the observable universe is calculated to be 13.7 billion years old.
In this theory, which at least in its main form is considered "historical fact" under the current state of science according to Fr. Spitzer, the universe was seen as expanding out from a theoretic center of origin, like a sort of expanding balloon, 13.7 billion light years in all directions. (This expansion of space is called the "Hubble expansion.")
Working backwards from the universe's current expansion, the classical Big Bang theory strongly suggests to the point of scientific certainty that there was an infinite point of beginning of the universe, in both space and time, before which there was no space and no time. Current calculations, which take into account the effect of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB or CBR) discovered by Penzias and Wilson and consider other corroborative evidence, determine this beginning to be about 13.7 billion years ago.
In the classical Big Bang theory, this point of beginning in both space and time, when the universe as we know it began, is known as the Hawking-Penrose singularity. All mass, and therefore all time, was at a 0 point.
While science can tell us something about what happened at and after the Big Bang, it cannot tell us what happened before it, i.e., before physical history in time and place. Nor can it tell us what is happening beyond the observable universe (we can only see 13.7 billion light years out, whatever else is out there has not reached us). For example, we do not know if the universe is open or closed.
The simplest model of the Big Bang theory assumes the whole universe is described by it. That is, it assumes that there was no universe "before" the Big Bang, and it assumes that the universe beyond that which we can observe (the observable universe) is the same as the part that we can observe. No empirical evidence exists that can disprove these assumptions. So we are standing on solid ground, or perhaps better said, at least not standing on unsolid ground.
As Fr. Spitzer puts it, in this simplest model, "the big bang was actually the beginning of the universe in a very strong sense: it was the beginning of time itself (and space too)."
What this means is that, contrary to some of the pagan philosophers (who believed that the universe was eternal), the Christian concept that creation occurred in time seems to concur with modern science. The Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) does not seem either irresponsible or unreasonable.
If science has proved the universe to be finite, and not infinite, then it begs the question: what happened before the universe as we know it, before physical history, before time and place, before the Big Bang?
Here, we reach the limits of science. As Fr. Spitzer puts it, "science cannot deductively prove a creation or God. This is because natural science deals with the physical universe and with the regularities which we call 'laws of nature' that are obeyed by the phenomena within the universe. But God is not an object or phenomenon or regularity within the universe."
"When we speak of a beginning (a point prior to which there is no physical reality), we stand at the threshold of physics and metaphysics (beyond physics)." We cannot rely on "laws of nature" where there is no more "nature" in time and place.
Science, in other words, must here decrease, so that metaphysics can increase.
Drawing from Shakespeare's King Lear (Act I, sc. 1), we might entertain this dialogue between science and metaphysics at the limits of science:
Metaphysics: What can you say as to what was before the Big Bang? Speak.
Science: Nothing, my Lord.
Metaphysics: How? Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again.
It's unfair for Metaphysics to ask Science to speak again. Science cannot speak again, for at the edge of science, only metaphysics can speak. Science stands mute, deaf and dumb.
But Metaphysics is not at a loss of words. Drawing from the Parmenidian insight (which is self-evident and cannot be denied as untrue without absurdity) that nothing comes from nothing, we know that there must be something behind the physical nothing that science knows nothing about and which lies "behind" and "before" the Big Bang.
Since whatever this "thing" is, is a physical nothing in time and place (because it is before the Big Bang, where only after physical things in time and place began to be), it must be a transcendental Something.
Et hoc omnes intelligunt Deum. And this everyone understands to be God.
(Note. There has been substantial development and speculation about the Big Bang theory beyond its classical formulation, including suggestions of "bouncing universes," an "eternal inflation," "higher dimension theories" such as the Kaluza-Klein theories, supergravity theories, super-string theory, Randall-Sundrum theories, ekpyrotic theory, etc. These suggest that the Big Bang, in its classical formulation, is not perhaps the beginning of time and space, but only one beginning of time and space. Fr. Spitzer calls these Past-extended Big Bang Models. But there are very complex problems with these theories, and the better arguments suggest that "even in Past-extended Big Bang Models, the universe and time itself had to have a beginning at some time, even if that point was not the big bang itself." So long as we have a beginning of time and space, even under a theory more complex than the classical Big Bang theory, this proof of God as a transcendent cause of the universe is valid. For those interested in more detail, one should consult Fr. Spitzer's work for starters.)
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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