I was going to write a slightly simpler first post than this but oh well here goes. This was inspired by a specific article I saw somewhere on the internet arguing for god from causality.
So the Theist says, “Without a god we can’t explain where the universe came from. It must have been created. Something can’t come from nothing.”
The Atheist responds, “But if a god created the universe then who created the god? Something can’t come from nothing.”
“But god is without beginning or end and has always existed.”
“Ok, so if a god can have always existed then why can’t we simplify and just say the universe has always existed?”
“But we know it didn’t: The big bang theory denies this.”
The basis of this argument is in causality. The theist is arguing that the universe must obey causality, and that the big bang doesn’t as it requires a cause. Anything we can say caused the big bang must also have it’s own cause and so on. God having existed for ever, however doesn’t need causality.
I see three possible routes to go down in response to this:
a) Causality isn’t the be all and end all, i.e. quantum phenomena.
Most would argue that the big bang was a quantum event and as such doesn’t obey causality.
Not knowing that much about quantum mechanics, I won’t follow this any further.
Causality requires time to function; events which happen before cause events which happen after
The argument therefore rests on an idea of time which goes infinitely far backwards, or at least back past the big bang. Many cosmologists don’t believe this to be the case though.
The idea of time starting with the big bang is a little bit tricky to wrap your head around, but it means that the question “what happened before the big bang?” is entirely meaningless. There being no “before the big bang” also means that there cannot be a cause for it. If the it was always there argument is valid then we can now use it again to say that the universe has been there forever, but ‘forever’ is only about 13.8 bn years!
The concept of there being no time before the big bang also means that god could not possibly have made the universe. After all how would god have existed with no time and how could it have brought about a universe that can’t have a cause? Then again, where would a god have existed without space, which like time did not exist before the big bang. I suspect the theist would say that their god ‘transcends’ both space and time.
c) Why should god be immune to causality?
Assuming a universe which follows causality and a time axis that extends infinitely in both directions, god still breaks causality.
If god created the universe at a particular point in time, why was that particular time chosen? What caused god to awake from an infinity of slumber and suddenly decide to produce a universe? There must have been a cause or some extrinsic intervening factor, which would require it’s own cause and so on.
While we’re at it we may as well ask why he wanted to create a universe in the first place? Also why did he intervene and create people and where did his morality come from? These ideas must also have been placed in him extrinsically or be due to something inherent in his nature which requires it’s own cause.
Theists don’t like the idea of trying to understand the mind of god, saying that he cannot be understood by human minds. But science doesn’t work like that, all things can be understood and reasoned out, and if you’re happy to take something as the case without reason then a) you have no place in science, and b) why are you trying to argue your case using reason in the first place.