Where did we come from?

I believe that the universe, as we understand it today, began to exist. But what does it mean to begin to exist? Does it mean the universe came from nothing?

William L. Craig uses the word exist in an article on his website in an interesting way.

“You must have been caused to begin to exist (perhaps precisely by the prior interaction of your material constituents!).”[1]

[1]http://www.reasonablefaith.org/must-everything-that-begins-to-exist-have-a-material-cause

Apparently things can begin to exist (perhaps) by the interaction of material constituents.

In his Reasonable Faith podcast from November 17, 2013 at 5:05 minutes Craig says that the Kalam Cosmological “Argument as I’ve framed it leaves it entirely open as to whether the cause works with or without a material cause.”[2]

[2]http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-toughest-questions

So the universe began to exist, but according to Craig nothing precludes the first cause from working with a material cause.

However, elsewhere he says that Christian theology is committed to creation from nothing.

“When we say that the matter and energy were created out of nothing, we mean merely that, although created, they were not created out of anything.”[3]

[3]http://www.reasonablefaith.org/must-the-universe-have-a-material-cause

The Kalam Cosmological Argument states:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

See: http://youtu.be/6CulBuMCLg0

Craig uses the Cosmological Argument to show that God must exist because he is the cause of the universe. But did the universe come into existence out of nothing or from some sort of preexisting substance?

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66 Replies to “Where did we come from?”

  1. So if you don't have matter or energy, you don't have a universe??

    [Edit: I've circled back to essentially repeating a previous comment I made. I need to think about where I was going with my line of questions.]

  2. By the way, you say there are material causes and non-material causes. I can think of two other kinds of causes: existence causes and event causes. Maybe in the philosophical jargon they are called existential or ontological causes and proximate causes.

    In my experience every event has a proximate cause and everything that exists was formed from preexisting material. It will take extraordinary evidence to convince me to believe what is contrary to my experience.

  3. "I don't know where matter came from."
    Oh, I think you know more than you let on. You know a number of things about the origin of matter. You know that it is not eternal. You know that it could not have come from matter. You know that it did not come from nothing. And you know that it had a cause.

    You don't have any reason to doubt any of these things, do you?

  4. You know that it is not eternal.

    Why do you say that?

    You know that it could not have come from matter.

    Trees and stars and people come from matter. Where did the matter come from?

    You know that it did not come from nothing.

    Nothing comes from nothing. LOL

    And you know that it had a cause.

    Every cause in my experience is a proximate cause. I don't know if matter has an existential or ontological cause.

  5. "Me: You know that it is not eternal."
    "You: Why do you say that?"
    Because you acknowledge that the universe as we understand it began to exist.

    "Me: You know that it could not have come from matter."
    "You: Trees and stars and people come from matter. Where did the matter come from?"
    From something immaterial. And spaceless, timeless, uncaused, and unimaginably powerful.

    "Me: You know that it did not come from nothing."
    "You: Nothing comes from nothing. LOL"
    We agree! You'd be surprised how many people believe that something can come from nothing. Or, maybe you wouldn't.

    "Me: And you know that it had a cause."
    "You: Every cause in my experience is a proximate cause. I don't know if matter has an existential or ontological cause."
    See above for some things you do know about the cause.

  6. Because you acknowledge that the universe as we understand it began to exist.

    That does not necessarily mean that the universe was not made from preexisting material.

    Where did the matter come from?

    From something immaterial. And spaceless, timeless, uncaused, and unimaginably powerful.

    How is it possible for something to exist that is uncaused, timeless or spaceless?

    We agree that nothing comes from nothing. Where did the immaterial, spaceless, timeless, and unimaginably powerful thing come from?

  7. "That does not necessarily mean that the universe was not made from preexisting material."
    Sure it does. The universe contains all matter and energy, so how could it be made of preexisting matter and energy? That would be logically impossible. (Of course, if you know of any reasons to believe in other universes, let me know.)

    "Where did the matter come from?"
    From something immaterial. I feel like I'm repeating myself.

    "How is it possible for something to exist that is uncaused, timeless or spaceless?"
    Not only is it possible, it's necessary! Think about it. Start with the term uncaused. Something must be uncaused. Think of it this way. If everything needed a cause, then (A) could not exist unless it had a cause (B). But (B) could not exist unless it had a cause (C), and (C) would require (D), etc. But this means that (A) would never exist. That is because (B) would have to exist, but (B) would never exist because (C) would have to exist, ad infinitum. The result is that nothing would ever exist. But things do exist, so not everything requires a cause.

    "We agree that nothing comes from nothing. Where did the immaterial, spaceless, timeless, and unimaginably powerful thing come from?"
    Think about the characteristics you listed. How could such a being come from anything? If it was uncaused, the question of "coming from" does not apply to it. You might as well ask how many sides the square circle has.

  8. Is the universe as we understand it today the same as it was in the beginning? Have atoms existed from the beginning? Have protons, electrons and neutrons existed from the beginning as they do today? Fermions? Bosons?

    How do you tell which things are caused and which things are uncaused?

    An uncaused thing would have no cause. But are you saying a timeless, spaceless, unimaginably powerful thing could have no cause?

    Are there things which exist that are not part of the universe? If so, then the definition of the what constitutes the universe is arbitrary.

  9. "Is the universe as we understand it today the same as it was in the beginning? "
    According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, it has a lot less usable energy. But is this question supposed to support the argument that the universe had no cause?

    "Have atoms existed from the beginning? Have protons, electrons and neutrons existed from the beginning as they do today? Fermions? Bosons?"
    I don't have any reason to believe that they haven't. Do you know of any? But, again, I'm not sure how this is relevant to the cause of the universe.

    "How do you tell which things are caused and which things are uncaused?"
    By investigating their origin. By weighing the facts and arguments that support a cause against the facts and arguments that support no cause. By applying logic and reason.

    "An uncaused thing would have no cause."
    Agreed.

    "But are you saying a timeless, spaceless, unimaginably powerful thing could have no cause?"
    I'm saying that whatever created the universe had these characteristics. But I'm also saying that something had to have no cause. It's illogical to believe that everything had a cause. There had to be a first cause which did not itself have a cause. I suppose you could argue that the cause of the universe had a cause, but you'd have to present some reasons to believe that. And that wouldn't change the timeless, spaceless, and powerful nature of the cause, although it does seem contradictory to think of a timeless being coming into existence. And it's certainly more plausibly true than false that anything that came into existence had to have a cause.

    "Are there things which exist that are not part of the universe? If so, then the definition of the what constitutes the universe is arbitrary."
    Not material things. Not if the universe consists of all matter and energy.

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