All of the scientific evidence points to the temporal finitude of physical reality, even if physical reality extends beyond the Big Bang (see here and here). And yet, scientists continue to come up with mathematical models that permit an eternal universe/multiverse, and atheists continue to promote them because both are under the mistaken presumption that if physical reality is eternal, then there is no need for a transcendent cause, and thus no need for God. As David Berlinski observed, “While an eternal universe makes it meaningless to ask when the universe began to exist, since its existence is not necessary it is still meaningful to ask why it exists.” The fact that physical reality is contingent means that even if the universe/multiverse is eternal, it still needs a cause.
Peter Williams provides an excellent illustration involving the borrowing of a book to make this same point, which I detailed in a previous post. Recently I stumbled on two more lucid illustrations by Rabbi Adam Jacobs. Writing at the Huffington Post (of all places), Jacobs invites his readers to imagine the following scenarios:
[L]et’s say that there were an infinite array of mirrors reflecting one to the other and an image of a bear in each mirror. Would it be possible to suggest that the image of the bear stretches on infinitely with no actual bear to start the reflections reflecting? Surely not. Even if there were an infinite number of mirrors, there would still need to be a real bear (a cause) who initiated the reflective series.
Say you were driving along the quiet and bucolic countryside when you’re forced to (patiently) wait at a train crossing. All you see is a series of flatbed cars that seems to go on for miles. After an uncomfortably long wait you realize that this is an infinite series of flatbed rail cars! Would it then be logical to conclude that there is nothing actually pulling these cars – no locomotive? That would clearly be absurd, as you know very well that flatbed rail cars have no power of locomotion, i.e., they are contingent/dependent on an outside force to move. As such, you can (and must) conclude that even if there are an infinite number of these cars – or of anything (any series of contingencies) — there must be an original, non-contingent force that is doing the moving, a force that has not been, and cannot be influenced by any other. This force is God.
I fail to see how one could argue against this reasoning, but I invite my atheist readers to try. It seems to me, however, that atheists have to come to terms with the fact that whether physical reality extends finitely or infinitely into the past, it can only be explained by a transcendent cause, and by definition such a cause must be immaterial, timeless, and spaceless, which is minimally what theists have always meant by “God.”
- Even if the universe is eternal, it still needs a cause
- Science Cannot Prove the Universe is Eternal
Rabbi Adam Jacobs, “An Iron-Clad Proof of God”; available from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-adam-jacobs/an-ironclad-proof-of-god_b_2567870.html?utm_hp_ref=religion; Internet; accessed 29 January 2013.