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Michael Egnor to Jerry Coyne: Why the universe itself can’t be the most fundamental thing

Michael Egnor

Neurosurgeon Egnor is here responding to Darwinian evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. Coyne, he says, “is mistaken in dismissing my observation that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as any other scientific theory”:

As philosophers have noted over the past several thousand years, there are many reasons why the universe cannot be the most fundamental thing that exists. I’ll discuss two of them here:

First, as Aquinas notes in his first Three Ways, change, cause, and existence in nature cannot go backward forever in an essential causal chain. “Essential” causal chains require the continued existence of all the causes in the chain. Forces and states in nature tend to be essential causal chains — the warming of the air in summer is due to the direct radiance from the sun due to tilt of the earth as it revolves around the sun which is due to gravitation as described by general relativity, etc. If any step in the causal chain from gravitation to summer warmth is eliminated, the effect is eliminated. If the earth ceased to tilt or revolve, or the sun cease to shine, or gravity cease to operate, summer would cease.

But these ordered causal chains in the universe can’t regress to infinity because there must be a fully actual cause at the beginning that gets the chain going. That fully actual cause cannot itself depend on any other cause within the system. Otherwise, how would it start?

Imagine a chain hanging from the sky supporting a weight suspended in the air. Each link in the chain is a cause for the continued suspension of the links and the weight they hold up. However, the chain could not hold itself up alone. It can’t be “links all the way up.” Something at the beginning must be holding the chain up. And whatever holds the whole causal series up cannot just be another link in the chain. To be a “first cause,” whatever is holding up the chain must be something different from the chain itself.

In the same way, the cause of the universe must be something other than the universe itself and must have the power to cause things independently of the laws of nature. That is what all men call God.

A second reason why the universe cannot be the most fundamental thing is the principle of sufficient reason…

Michael Egnor, “Why the universe itself can’t be the most fundamental thing” at Mind Matters News
Jerry Coyne, Ph.D.
Jerry Coyne

Takehome: Logical thinking helps us understand why the universe cannot simply exist without a power behind it. Let’s follow the logic.

You may also wish to read: Here’s why an argument for God’s existence is scientific: The form of reasoning and the type of evidence accepted is the same as with Newton’s theories or Darwin’s. We can observe God’s effects in the natural world just as we inferred the existence of the Big Bang and black holes by observing their effects. (Michael Egnor)


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