God and the u-bit

Science on the brain, today…

Tonight, Ken Ham of the Creation Museum just south of us in Kentucky and Bill Nye of “The Science Guy” fame will debate the question “Is creation a viable model of origins?” I had hoped to get tickets, but given that they sold out in two hours, that wasn’t going to happen. However, it is apparently going to be broadcast live (sign up at debatelive.org, where I think it will be broadcast), so I will watch if I can.

I don’t think the truth of “origins” will come out in the debate — I subscribe to an old earth but a young mankind, created at the re-creation of the earth, which neither men subscribe to. Ken Ham is a Young Earther and Bill Nye is an Evolutionist, so I think both miss the boat. And I should add: I’m open to learning I’ve missed the boat, as well. Since I can’t swim, successfully making it to the boat is important to me. However, the Old Earth/Young Mankind model is the best I’ve seen so far in reconciling all the data as thoroughly as possible while leaving open vast possibilities for new details to be discovered, and I am glad that is what we teach. Actually, some of the first few posts I made on this blog were about such things, now that I think about it. Here they are, in all their ignomin… er, I mean glory:

But I am still interested in the debate. I am also interested in how they conduct themselves. The inability of some to discuss/debate such matters with civility is irritating. Christian apologist William Lane Craig always impresses me with his ability to be respectful and courteous, even under harsh conditions (such as the first few “discussions” with physicist Lawrence Krauss in Australia, recently). I’m curious to see, given the formal structure of the debate, if Ham and Nye are able to keep the discussion respectful and courteous — and ditto for the audience.

20140125But that’s actually not what I was going to write about! (Editorial Department at TW: I appreciate you!) I was reading in New Scientist this past week about the u-bit, a theorized entity in one particular maverick strain of quantum mechanics. New Scientist loves sensational cover blurbs (and they are pretty good at writing them), and the u-bit was the cover story, with this tease: “To make quantum theory real, we must create the most powerful entity in the universe.” Great tease, huh?

The article is worth a read for those who can stomach science content. I think its a good one. Here is a link–“From i to u: Searching for the quantum master bit”–but you might need to register to read the whole article (since I have a subscription, I don’t always see “please register” pages). Here is a (poorly condensed) summary of the idea…

Quantum mechanics–one of the most successful-yet-counterintuitive scientific theories in history–relies on the presence of poorly named “imaginary numbers.” I have discussed these on the blog before (see “About that equation…”), but to put it very briefly: an imaginary number is one that produces a negative number when you square it (that is, multiply it by itself). When you square positive real numbers or negative real numbers, the result is always a positive number (since “a negative times a negative is a positive”–the old rule from your school days, proven to be true here). So, since all “real” numbers are never negative when you square them, any numbers that would be negative when you square them must be “not real”–or imaginary. So, we have the number i, where  = -1 just like 1² = 1.

Because they aren’t like the “regular” real numbers, many people assume that the imaginary numbers are just that: purely imaginary entities. However, we discover their presence in many applications and physical theories in our very real universe. As the New Scientist article describes: “In geometry they appear in trigonometric equations, and in physics they provide a neat way to describe rotations and oscillations. Electrical engineers use them routinely in designing alternating-current circuits, and they are handy for describing light and sound waves, too.”

Still, there has been something dissatisfying to many in their use in quantum mechanics–the currently reigning King of the Theories in describing physical reality–and in calculating its related and ubiquitous (and highly confirmed by experimental evidence) probabilities. Consequently, some have undertaking the challenge of recasting quantum mechanics in a form that uses only real numbers and has no imaginary number component whatsoever. Apparently there hasn’t been much success–coming close, but still needing the existence of something to “play the role of the imaginary unit.”

The theory that Dr. Bill Wooters and his students Antoniya Aleksandrova and Victoria Borish have come up with dispenses with the need of the imaginary unit, but only works if one hypothesizes the existence of the u-bit. The u-bit would be some element of reality that, in some way, is entangled with every other bit of information about every other particle, wave, field, etc. in all of existence. Mathematically, it would be represented by a two-dimensional vector, which is probably what gives it the ability to replace the imaginary numbers, since combinations of imaginary and real numbers, called complex numbers, are two-dimensional numbers by nature. But physically, the theorists have no idea what in the world the u-bit would actually be. Their theory only says that whatever it is, if it exists, it is rotating very at a great rate. (What sort of science is this where the only thing you can discover about an entity’s existence is how fast it must be spinning? Welcome to theoretical physics! 🙂 ) And, as the article describes, this entity could successfully act as an “omnipresent conduit of information” tying all things together.

Dr. Wooten’s speciality is in the information side of quantum mechanics, and that clearly influences the theory.

One familiar with the Psalms may not be able to help himself from recalling Psalm 139:7-12,

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”

The idea of information being at all times and from all places available to an omniscient and omnipresent God seems like an idea of pure theology. Yet, here we have a purely physical theory of the universe that involves a theoretical artifact that smacks of the same sort of omniscience and omnipresence.

A lot of truth in this comic…

That doesn’t mean that the u-bit, in fact, exists. Hardly! Drawing that conclusion so quickly would be both bad science and bad Bible study. 🙂 Let the experiments be designed! Let the searching begin! Frankly, I think the odds are not in the u-bit’s favor, though I’m open to discovering I’m wrong–actually, I would be delighted to discover I’m wrong. And if it is found to be real–whatever it actually is–I’m not saying that we would have somehow discovered physical evidence of God’s Spirit in the universe. There be dragons in such thinking, unless there were to be powerful cause to conclude such (and it is hard to imagine cause powerful enough to dogmatically conclude such a thing). Yet, it is still fascinating! Knowing that there is a spirit in man and that, yet, his mind represents–as best we understand it–the union of a physical brain with the human spirit, I’ve often wondered how that interaction occurs–how it actually takes place. The ideas of Roger Penrose and others about the quantum-level dymanics that must exist in the brain, with Heisenberg uncertainties, wave function collapses, etc., and their possible relationship to consciousness and free will have always been a fascinating possibility in my opinion for enabling the spirit/brain interface, but, still, who knows? I won’t pretend to. And the possible existence of an entity, the u-bit, that is entangled with every single bit of information in the entire universe? As New Scientist describes it, “interacts with everything else in reality, dictating its quantum behavior”? OK–that is fascinating.

And the potential theological flavor of such an entity, of course, would make some nervous. Let me discuss that last…

New Scientist, which is sometimes rather assertive in it’s proactively anti-God stance, anticipates thoughts such as those above and tries a preventative measure in the early part of their magazine, where they publish editorial/promotional introductory essays about the current issue (p.5 in the print edition). In a small section (a couple of paragraphs) titled, “The u-bit may be omniscient, but it’s no God particle” (the print edition simply titles it “Not the God particle”), they write:

“Now we have an entity more befitting of the title [God particle]: the omniscient, omnipresent and unseen ‘u-bit’… Some will pounce on the fact that science needs such an entity to explain the universe. But the existence of a u-bit would be no more profound than the existence of natural laws. Let’s leave God out of it this time.”

There’s a lot of worldview packed into that statement, but to unpack just one element, “leaving God out of it,” here, is what some scientists would like to be done but which simply cannot be done–not completely. And scientists’ commitment to such a sentiment has clouded their judgment, before. The idea of a universe with a beginning was long fought against primarily because it had positive theological undertones–frankly, more than undertones, but outright theological implications. The idea that some get physicists get upset when people see theological implications in their work seems all the more weird when, in cases like the Big Bang theory, it was their own aversion to theological implications that delayed their own acceptance of a theory now taken as common understanding. Do they fault the public for noticing the same things they did–theological implications–or for not sharing the same distaste for those implications?

Of course, the theological biases of the past shouldn’t be held against the scientists of the present (unless they reproduce then), and major contextual ideas shouldn’t be overturned on a fad. And, frankly, I sympathize with the sentiment of some scientists who worry that the statement “God did it” will cut off scientific research. Understood wrongly, I see how it can do exactly that.

For instance, if we discovered a Big Bang was the beginning of it all and claim “God did it,” what more would we fail to learn? Should those scientists currently exploring what may have prompted the Big Bang or preceded it simply stop their research? Is there no more to learn beyond that? I guess what I am saying is that it would be a shame if the statement “God did it” was a means of cutting off study and research into “How God did it.” Does that make sense?

For instance, consider gravity. If we simply looked at the planets and saw them orbiting the sun in such a wonderful order according to beautiful laws, and then we–rightly–gave God credit for what we saw, knowing that the “ordinances of the heavens” (Job 38:33) bring Him glory, should we stop there with the understanding that “God did it”? Isn’t a natural desire to what to continue to learn, if possible, how He does it? Is gravity simply communicated by a particle, like the graviton, or is it a field? Is the idea of gravity as a distortion of the fabric of space-time the best way to look at it? I believe there is much wonder to be seen in continuing the process of discovery–that is, if anything, knowing that God did it should drive us all the more to explore it and learn about it, knowing that the works of His hands are truly worthy objects of our attentions. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). When we explore such things–strive to understand them more fully–aren’t we participating in the glory of kings? Isn’t the knowledge that “God did it” terribly motivating?

For another example, consider instinct. We marvel at the way animals make vast migrations having never been taught the way, how salmon return to spawning grounds to which they have no map, and how a vast amount of living information is transmitted from generation to generation in the animal kingdom through instinct. Yet, we still do not have a grasp on how this works. As someone once said, “instinct” is a good example of how we can give something a name and, by doing so, think that we understand it when, in reality, we haven’t a clue. Clearly, we’re seeing a wonderful element of design in God’s Creation when we see instinct in action, yet is that the end of the exploration? Is there no reason to explore further to see how instinct works? Recognizing that “God did it” should not be the end of exploration and experimentation–it should motivate us to wonder how He did it, and how it works.

Science is a noble practice, and just because some do it without a full understanding of the truth is no reason to beat up on them so. To be sure, I fault many of them for being willingly blind to the implications of their discoveries (he says, knowing he has many faults of his own). As I have said before, it is a human endeavor and thus suffers from human faults. Yet, at the same time, it is a marvelous pursuit. And scientists don’t have to fear the statement “God did it” if it is a spur to further investigation as opposed to and end to all questions.

I really have no dog in the hunt when it comes to the u-bit. I am comfortable in accepting the imaginary numbers and complex numbers as denizens of our very real world if they are needed. As I’ve mentioned, my favorite equation has i as part of its beating heart. But I am also fascinated at the possibility of discovering some additional element in the universe that may rid quantum mechanics of the need for them while displaying such fascinating qualities, knowing that the spirit realm and the physical realm must interact in some way. Is there such a thing as the u-bit? I have no idea whatsoever. But whether its for very real prey or very imaginary snipes, I am enjoying the hunt.

And, regardless of however irritated the editors of New Scientist may become, let’s not leave God out of it.

Finding God in Geometry Class

There's a reason I named my first car "Euclid" (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced "Oiler", it seemed a confusing option...)
There’s a reason I named my first car Euclid (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced “Oiler”, it seemed a potentially confusing option as a name for a car…)

This post deserves to be much longer and deeper than it will be, but I’m still going to post it while I have this brief opportunity.

Plato once said, “Geometry aims at the eternal.” For me, this statement was very true as a 9th grade geometry student in high school, except that it is missing a capitalization: “Geometry aims at the Eternal.”

That was an important year for me. While the years leading up to it and those immediately following it were certainly important as well, including the manner in which they complemented my 9th grade year, but that particular year saw my introduction to high school geometry. I had been a good math student, though not the self-starter I should have been, I believe. (Bad memory from 7th or 8th grade there–can’t remember which.) And I enjoyed math to a certain extent, I think. I remember in Algebra I class in Middle School finishing my work early and being allowed by the teacher to peruse some of the books on her shelf. The books were beyond me, to be sure, but the symbols I discovered there fascinated me and introduced me to the concept of mathematics as a language. I think it was the moment that I moved into a real interest in the subject, though not to the extent this would be true later.

But it was the next year–in Geometry class with Mrs. Paula Russell–that things really changed. I’m not sure if it is still as prominent today (this was before “Informal Geometry” had really caught on), but proofs were still a HUGE part of high school geometry work: assuming postulates, proving theorems, etc.

Seeing a mathematics based on clearly defined assumptions, using those to prove theorems–more complicated and less obvious statements–and then building on those theorems to prove other theorems, etc. was something transformative for me. Though mathematical points, lines, and planes were abstractions and not truly real world objects, it felt as if I were in a completely new universe with new objects to play with and examine. Yet, it wasn’t that it was a new universe that was somehow unrelated to our own. Quite the contrary: It seemed a deeper universe–something more fundamental, on which our own universe was built. A bright, glorious, beautiful place, where the pillars of reality might be seen and touched and felt in some magical way.

I had always been a “science kid” as far back as I can remember, and the idea that we live in a universe that could be mathematically described was not new. But the fact that this is an extraordinary reality about the world had not struck me, perhaps because I didn’t yet see mathematics unshackled from its applications. I don’t know. But I saw it unshackled in Geometry class. For the first time, I saw a truth such as this one I quoted from Clifford A. Pickover on Twitter yesterday:

I felt, perhaps for the first time, that I was sitting at God’s desk and looking at instruments unique to His own work. There seemed something eternal about it, as if those of us in class were simply exploring a place that, for all intents and purposes, had always existed in a way that the physical world around us simply hasn’t. A infinite place that was both workspace and playground. And there was something glorious about it.

These words and descriptions certainly didn’t come to mind back then, but the sentiment was there. And it came at an important time for me, in which my religious sentiments were undergoing a transformation, as well, and I do believe that this class played an active role in that transformation. That such ethereal objects as points, lines, and planes–postulates and theorems and proofs–could be made so very nearly tangible to me, added a tangible sense to God and His realm and thoughts to me, as well. The order in His Creation became so much more real to me that year. Well, that’s not quite right. Rather, my awareness of the reality of order seemed to change in nature a bit. I had known it was there (my science books had always emphasized that), but the fact of its presence became a startling thing–something wondrous and mysterious and not to be taken for granted.

To take things up to a melodramatic level (and I will take them back down in a moment), it reminds me of Job’s statement in chapter 42. It was not that before his trials Job did not know God–I dare say that even then he likely knew God more fully than virtually anyone reading this blog post could claim. Yet, through the trials and God’s lesson at the end of them, he makes the remarkable statement:

“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (v.3 & v.5)

Geometry class certainly did not propel me to such an understanding as Job surely had! Wow, would that be a pretentious claim. 🙂 But, it did have that sort of clarifying and enriching effect on me. The God I knew after that class was richer in detail, fuller in substance, larger in scope, and more different in kind. It’s not a coincidence to me that my 9th grade year was the year God seemed to accelerate His calling in me. It has always been a benchmark year in my life.

These thoughts have been on my mind recently, as I’ve been examining my relationship with numbers — moving from seeing them in a platonic “numbers are real” sort of sense to something else — and, thus, with mathematics, too.

And it highlights the role good teachers play, especially in mathematics. I was blessed with Mrs. Russell. In the hands of a lesser teacher, perhaps I would have been distracted by various “school dynamics” and not been free to really discover what an amazing subject I was studying. I guess I can’t know for certain, but regardless — having Mrs. Russell as my teacher was a very good thing, and I will always be grateful.

Beyond that, I think I will just say that you never know what God may use in your life to help you see Him more fully. For me, He showed up in my Geometry class, and my life has been different ever since.

Nice video about the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Just a quick post… I posted a new video I came across on our local congregational website concerning the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. I have commented on that argument before here on the blog (specifically, here: “The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)”), and I thought the video by Dr. William Lane Craig’s organization was very well done. It’s concise, it gets the point across without getting lost in minutia, and it is pleasantly and professionally produced.

Feel free and watch it for yourself. And you might use it as a spur to do what I recommended to my congregation: Take advantage of this Sabbath to ask someone why they personally believe that God exists and share your own reasons, as well.

The video is here, below. (And, as with all such links and embeds, the standard caveat applies.)

(And for those who have never read it, please consider our booklet: “The Real God: Proofs and Promises”)

Order from Chaos through Boundaries

Boundaries -- order from chaos
Boundaries — order from chaos

I was listening to something last night on the way home that made me think.

When we are introduced to God on the first page of the Bible, we see Him creating. But shortly thereafter, He is turning chaos into order. How he does that is interesting: He does it through establishing boundaries.

At first, the earth is tohu and bohu and is uninhabitable. But man cannot live in chaos and disorder, tohu and bohu. Such a state is not fit for habitation, and God intended the earth to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18).

I noticed some time ago that there seems to be a structure in the Genesis 1 account. Well, there are several structures, but in particular, each day of 1-3 seems to be devoted to establishing a domain for inhabitants to come in days 4-6, and each in order. Day 1 involves establishing the domains of day and night, whereas Day 4 involves populating those domains with the sun and the moon and stars. Day 2 involves establishing the domains of the waters below and the waters above, and on Day 5 God creates the sea creatures to live in the waters below and the birds who fly among the clouds above. On Day 3 He establishes the land apart from the waters and fills it with vegetation, and on Day 6 He creates land animals and man to enjoy that realm.

Days 1-3 seem devoted to crafting places and domains of habitation that are, in turn, filled in the same order with their inhabitants.

That said, how does God establish the domains? How does He craft those domains out of the chaos?

He establishes them by setting boundaries where there were none. He takes what was total darkness (Genesis 1:2) and sets a boundary between Day and Night. He takes the waters and sets a boundary between what will be below and what will be above. He takes what was completely water covered and sets a boundary between dry land and the now-divided seas.

A major task of crafting order from chaos is setting boundaries. And perhaps it follows, then, that creating chaos often involves the removal of needed boundaries.

I think we see this theme in many places. God is angered at the spiritual chaos of Israel and says that part of the problem is that her priests have not taught the people to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, the holy and unholy (Ezekiel 22:26) — a failure to draw proper boundaries. God set boundaries between Israel and the other nations around her, not just physical but through command and ordinance, to create a “space” where He could work with her and craft her. In fact, God set the boundaries of the nations of the world earlier in the history (Acts 17:26), to create families of men according to His desires, much like some might create a beautiful, orderly garden on their property. In Babylon at the Tower, the people opposed that order for one of their own choosing (Genesis 11:4), in which the people remained together in opposition to God (certainly a form of chaos), so He manifested the boundaries He wanted through their speech, forcing them to naturally create the order He desired in the world.

God defines what is orderly in sexual relations by defining boundaries not to be crossed (Leviticus 18). Crossing those boundaries causes chaos in the realm of sexual and family relationships and an “anything goes” mentality, much like we are seeing more and more of today. In fact, that awful and immoral (and as we highlighted, irrational) Australian “lesbian ad” we discussed yesterday was all about trying to convince people through emotional appeal to ignore boundaries.

How do we craft a safe, orderly world for our young children? We create boundaries for them. How do we teach them to have an orderly world of their own as adults? We teach them to create and establish boundaries of their own.

Anyway, just a thought! I had never seen that before — that God’s creation of order out of the tohu and bohu chaos in Genesis 1:2 was through the establishing or restoration of boundaries. Seemed interesting.

Australia’s “You’re having a lesbian” ad versus Logic

By now many have heard of or seen directly the advertisement running in Australia in an effort to increase support for the concept of homosexual “marriage.” If not, here’s the add, from YouTube:

If you didn’t want to watch it, here’s a summary of the essentials. A young couple–a man and a woman with child (notice, pro-abortionists: we still say “with child”; but that’s another blog post)–is visiting their doctor for an ultrasound and listening to the baby’s heartbeat. The doctor asks if they want to know what they are having. They agree that they do, and the doctor tells them, “You’re having a lesbian.” The couple is delighted, and words appear on the screen saying, “Any child can be born gay. So marriage equality is every family’s issue.”

A number of points could be made about this, and surely many are out there making those points. The most common point made is that it has not been scientifically established that people are born with their sexual preferences locked in. Not at all.

However, I’d like to step around that for the moment and address a point that sometimes seems to go unsaid: that the argument underlying the “Homosexuals are born that way so homosexuality must be a morally acceptable choice” propaganda is false from the get go. And looking at why gives us a chance to play with logical structures. And, I admit: that’s the real reason I am bringing this up anyway. 🙂

The argument can be structured in Modus Ponens form:

(1) If homosexual tendencies are genetically determined, then homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.

(2) Homosexual tendencies are genetically determined.

(3) Therefore, homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.

[And, I should note that “genetically determined” is a specific filler for what could be a number of “nature versus nurture” possibilities, such as “determined by inherent brain structures,” etc.]

We have to note that the logical structure is valid, meaning that if premise (1) is true and premise (2) is true, then the conclusion in (3) must be accepted as unavoidably true, also. Therefore, understanding whether the conclusion is true requires us to visit the premises, themselves, to see if they are true. If they are not, then the conclusion cannot be said to be true.

Normally, I see defenders of marriage attacking premise (2), the idea that homosexual tendencies are genetically determined. And I can understand why, since it is taken as a given by an increasing number of people (as illustrated in the Australian ad) even though it has not been established as true at all.

However, I’d like to fill in the gap by pointing out that premise (1) is not true. That is, it is not true to say, “If homosexual tendencies are genetically determined, then homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.”

Of course, according to the Bible it is immediately seen as not true. Outside of liberal thelogians looking to recraft God and Jesus Christ in their own image, this is generally well understood. (Rather than go on at length about this, I happily point folks to the Tomorrow’s World website, where they can search the topic “homosexuality” and read what comes up. Plain truth, folks.) But for someone who hesitates to take the Bible at its word, can it still be shown to be false? Indeed.

Consider substituting “homosexuality” with other conditions that have even stronger ties according to some studies to genetic predisposition. I have read of studies that demonstrate individuals with tendencies toward violence can have genetic predispositions and that some alcoholics can have can have genetic predispositions toward alcohol abuse. Again, these studies–if I recall correctly–show even stronger evidence of a cause and effect relationship. (Which would bring an element of a fortiori.) So consider these statements:

  • If alcoholic tendencies are genetically determined, then alcoholism must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.
  • If violent tendencies are genetically determined, then violence must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.

I don’t know anyone who would rationally agree with either of those statements, and, certainly, more could be made. (E.g., Here’s a paper discussing genetic predisposition to drug abuse.) The point is that, no, premise (1) is not acceptable: Even if it were found to be true that homosexual tendencies were genetically determined (again, something not yet achieved, by the way), then it would not follow that homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice–not in any way, shape, or form. Genetic predispositions (or other such nature over nurture considerations) make for horrible determiners concerning moral acceptability. Consequently, whether premise (2) is true or not, the conclusion still does not follow as true.

And, frankly, the only reason we are living in a world in which the content of our genes is considered to be viable ground for deciding issues of morality is because we are losing our connection with the only solid source in existence of any absolute morality: An eternal God and Creator.

Gotta love logic. Don’t leave home–or watch TV in Australia–without it.

Married Bachelors and Instant Character

You really do have to pick one...
You really do have to pick one…

During my walking routine these days as I work on Wally v.3.0, I enjoy an occasional podcast from reasonablefaith.org which often discusses apologetics issues of the day. I may not always agree with everything Dr. Craig says, but it is still an interesting resource and has provoked some interesting discussion with my wife on long trips.

One I listened to a while back reminded me of a post I made discussing the question “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” which is often used to trip up those who believe in God. In fact, when some atheists first stumble on it, they often think they’ve found the “silver bullet” that will kill the idea of an omnipotent God. As I addressed there in that post, the thought is a foolhardy one. The question has an answer: “No.” If elaboration is needed, it is, “No, because no such rock can exist.” As James Taranto summarized in the comment I quoted in that post, a rock so big an omnipotent being can’t lift it “is a logically incoherent construct, not a limitation on God’s power.”

It really is simple, though it used to stump me when I was much younger. The fact is that there are many things that simply cannot exist, and the fact that we can create such nonsensical descriptions does not limit God’s power in anyway at all. For instance, God cannot create a married bachelor or a square circle. He cannot create an odd integer that is evenly divisible by two. The very definitions of these things make the statements that mention them meaningless, and “There’s a rock that cannot be lifted by a being who can lift anything” is a similarly meaningless statement.

God is not somehow “reduced” by not being able to satisfy a nonsensical statement any more than He is reduced by not being able to quickly flibbydahip a traditional Barsoomian Mac-A-Noony-Flahooby-Do. My ability to speak gibberish has no impact at all on God’s omnipotence. (“Good thing, or else all of your blog posts would trouble Him!” you quip. “That’s hilarious!” I sarcastically but warmly reply…)

(In a second unnecessary parenthetical insert which I will italicize to set it apart in someway, I will mention that being omniscient doesn’t mean that God knows the flavor of grilled unicorn or the average height of a leprechaun, either, but that is another “O” for another time!)

I mention this because in a discussion I had recently, I think during my recent visit to our headquarters in Charlotte, I was reminded on one of the questions I had when I was studying the purpose of man, back when I was first learning the truth.

It concerned God’s purpose in reproducing himself in man. As we state in our Statement of Fundamental Beliefs within the section titled MANKIND’S ORIGIN, INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL AND ULTIMATE DESTINY, “The true saints will become full sons of God—’sons of the resurrection’ (Luke 20:36). God’s purpose is that He is reproducing Himself and that those converted, ultimately, become full members of the Family of God, under the authority of the Father and the Son (1 John 3:1-3).They will share divine glory in the resurrection.”

(Yes, the comment that God “is reproducing Himself” offends some. But it is the truth, and the truth sometimes offends. That’s just sort of the way it is…)

Related to that, we teach that God cannot create godly character by fiat–it is something that is created over time through our free will choices, in concert with God’s assistance in our lives through the Holy Spirit, enabling Christ to live in us. That free will choices are necessary helps to explain why God gave Adam and Eve two trees instead of one and, thus, why we aren’t all still running around naked in a paradise.

But back then, the idea that God could not do something bothered me. Why can’t He just create godly character? If He’s God, can’t He do anything?

Well, no, He can’t, such as those things mentioned above. In a very real sense, again, it isn’t a limit on God so much as it is a limit on reality.

Which brings me to my point: It may be that “instant character” is verbal nonsense–a logically incoherent construct just like “married bachelor” or “square circle” or “odd and even integer” or, for that matter, “a rock so heavy it cannot be lifted by one who can lift anything.” While bachelors, circles, rocks, and even integers (numbers with no fractional components, like 5 and -3) are part of the real, everyday world for us, character is something deep and, ultimately, spiritual. To think that godly character, in terms of all it is supposed to entail in the workings and purpose of God, could ever be instantly “planted” in a created being from the moment of their creation, or in any simple “instant” thereafter, might be a truly nonsensical concept, not instantly rejected by our minds only because we are ignorant of the true depth and eternal nature of what is, indeed, entailed. In fact, as we think upon it further, it may become more obvious that the greater miracle is that such godly character may be built within us at all, let alone that it may require time to do so.

If free will and character go hand-in-hand (as surely they do, right?) then it makes sense that godly character is not something that can be created by fiat–that there is no such thing as “instant character.”

I know for most of you reading this, the matter was never a question! But the math-and-logic guy in me wondered, and the resolution was very helpful. Every time I hear the suggestion that, if God is God, He should have been able to create instant godly character in us, I just think, “Like married bachelors, there ain’t no such beasts…”

In the Beginning was Quantum Mechanics?

NASA pic
Can science really explain it all?

The current issue of New Scientist magazine has an article titled “Before the Big Bang: Three Reasons Why the Universe Can’t Have Existed Forever.” It is, effectively, a follow up to their earlier “Genesis problem” story which I mentioned in my Tomorrow’s World article, “Where Did the Universe Come From?” and doesn’t add too much new for those who read up on the topic. I did appreciate the reference to Susskind’s conclusion that if inflation is true and that this universe is simply one of a seemingly infinite number of big bangs that have occurred throughout multi-space and multi-time (something I don’t believe, by the way), then even if there were a beginning it may have been so long ago that there is no longer a detectable imprint of that beginning left in the universe we currently enjoy. It seems, though, an encouragement to stop trying to find a coherent theory for the beginning, which would be a shame given what such searches do to press science into confronting its most fundamental questions. (For a similar reason, I like the research on origin of life issues, because it presses biologists and evolutionists in the same way.)

And on those fundamental questions, I like how the New Scientist article ends. (I’d link to it, but it seems not yet available to non-subscribers. You might try the site after a few weeks have passed.) Earlier, Alex Vilenkin makes the same claim that many astrophysicists to: That there need be nothing in existence before the universe since quantum mechanics allows something to come out of nothing:

In the context of known physics, however, Vilenkin and Mithani conclude that, whatever way you look at it, the universe cannot have existed forever so must have had a beginning. But how did it begin? According to Vilenkin, quantum theory has a solution because it permits something to pop out of nothing–with that something being a small universe that starts to inflate, cycle or hang for an extremely long time before inflating.

He makes the same claim in his book Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes — quantum tunneling and all that stuff. It is, essentially, God-avoidance at its best.

But not exactly “at its best” — not really. After all, the “nothing” mentioned by physicists in such statements is never really “nothing,” regardless of anything Lawrence Kraus might say. There’s always a “something” there. And rather than ignore it (or, at least, rather than ignore it completely), in the NS article the author, Marcus Chown, and Vilenkin mention in the closing paragraph what they must admit existed before the universe of their imagination: quantum mechanical law.

Still, cosmologists have plenty of other big questions to keep them busy. If the universe owes its origins to quantum theory, then quantum theory must have existed before the universe. So the next question is surely: where did the laws of quantum theory come from? “We do not know,” admits Vilenkin. “I consider that an entirely different question.” When it comes to the beginning of the universe, in many ways we’re still at the beginning.

While on one hand, I respect Vilenkin’s willingness to avoid explicit philosophical or metaphysical speculation (something many scientists ignorantly don’t avoid these days. See Dawkins, R. or Hawking, S.), he actually fails to avoid it all together. The idea he champions actually assumes a Platonic view of the laws of physics: That rather than being descriptions of the behavior of the natural world, they are–in his view–apparently magically immaterial entities that exist in their own right.

And that is closer to God-avoidance at its best. There is no real basis for believing that the laws of physics would exist when there was nothing material whatsoever for them to describe. The idea that rigid and exacting laws describing the behavior of quarks, gluons, neutrons, electrons, etc. somehow existed in some timeless magical, immaterial nothingness is not physics–it is metaphysics. It is not the realm of science. It is the realm of religion.

It reminds me of Bishop Berkeley’s biting (and effective) mockery of an “infidel mathematician” (apparently Edmond Halley) for his faith in the “Ghosts of departed Quantities”–a rebuke that helped motivate mathematicians to finally ground the calculus firmly and solidly in the limit of Cauchy and Weierstrass and to jettison the useful-but-dangerously-fuzzy ideas behind Newton’s fluxions and differentials. Perhaps Vilenkin, Hawking, or some other luminary can one day show us the realm in which quantum mechanical law existed in nonexistence, waiting patiently to guide an entire zoo of somehow “more nonexistent” future particles and fields. Perhaps they will show us such a preexistent nether realm and explain the ground for the ethereal existence of these ghostly equations. Perhaps they will show us the immaterial parlor where the Wave Equation and the Laws of Thermodynamics sit for nonexistent tea and excitedly discuss all they plan to do once something finally exists.

And until they do, perhaps they will forgive us for not taking such suggestions seriously. To believe in such fantasies of convenience and to claim that science has done away with a need for God’s existence is to be a hypocrite. The dilemma is a reminder of what David Berlinski has pointed out: “No less than the doctrines of religious belief, the doctrines of quantum cosmology are what they seem: biased, partial, inconclusive, and largely in the service of passionate but unexamined conviction.”

Perhaps Vilenkin must see the ridiculous state of such things to some extent. He does seem pressed in some way when he says at the very end of his book:

The picture of quantum tunneling from nothing raises another intriguing question. The tunneling process is governed by the same fundamental laws that describe the subsequent evolution of the universe. It follows that the laws should be “there” even prior to the universe itself. Does this mean that the laws are not mere descriptions of reality and can have an independent existence of their own? In the absence of space, time, and matter, what tablets could they be written upon? The laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations. If the medium of mathematics is the mind, does this mean that mind should predate universe?

This takes us far into the unknown, all the way to the abyss of great mystery. It is hard to imagine how we can ever get past this point. But as before, that may just reflect the limits of our imagination.

While it smacks of then-candidate Obama’s comment about certain questions being “above my pay grade”, I appreciate the admission at which it hints, intended or not.

Fantasy Obama Inaugural Speech

Well, the election is past, and America has chosen to continue with President Barack Obama for another four years.  I wrote about this in a commentary published on the LCG and Tomorrow’s World websites which were graciously published yesterday, and I won’t revisit that territory here. Though do click through and read it if you haven’t: “Can the President Save America?”  I believe in the 8th commandment and refuse to quote other articles in their entirety and, thus, steal other website’s traffic from other websites, so I won’t quote the commentary here, but I do encourage you to read it there.

Rather, I’d like to indulge in a little wishful thinking. Well, probably more than wishful — it borders on fantasy. OK, perhaps it crosses that border and sets up a summer home there. But I so wish it would happen.  I dreamed once before that I had the chance to speak with President Obama and tell him personally the things that we preach on our program. It’s possible that dream informs this fantasy. What I have below is hastily written and probably not the clearest and most typo/grammar infraction-free writing I’ve ever done. In fact, I’m fairly sure that after it’s done and posted, I will wish I had rephrased much of it. But it will still feel good to get it off my chest! So here goes…

Setting: President Obama’s Second Inauguration, January 21, 2013. The President has just been sworn in and turns to face the applauding crowd and begin his address…

Thank you… Thank you…

My fellow Americans, I cannot help but begin with an expression of humble gratitude that you have chosen me to continue leading our nation through what are surely difficult times–more difficult than virtually any of us even now realize. Though political campaigns do not necessarily bring out the best in us, the days afterwards were–and continue to be–encouraging. As you know, in the first days immediately after the election, I met with Vice President Biden, Senators Reid and McConnell, and Representatives Boehner and Pelosi, as well as with Governor Romney and Representative Ryan. I can assure you that each of them has the nation’s best interested at heart, it’s citizens’ best interested at heart, and our common future as their highest priority. I found them more easy to work with than I had allowed myself to believe they would be, and I hope they found a more humble Head of State than they experienced over the previous four years. The compromise we reached concerning the fiscal cliff the nation approached in those days was not pretty, was not popular, and it is not permanent. But I cannot imagine a more passionate and diligent team could be assembled to get the job done.

As you know, however, and as has been reported by everyone from the mainstream press to the tabloids, I have been out of the public eye for some time after those days. Even during the deliberations over the fiscal deadline we all shared, I was frequently absent, and after the agreement was reached, I was even more so. I have not spoken publicly since that time to today, and this has enraged some, puzzled most, and troubled many. For that, you have my apologies. Even those closest to me have been confused… worried. My wife, Michelle, has been as strong and supportive as ever–as have Sasha and Malia. Though they don’t exactly understand, they still support me. God knows that I cannot thank them enough, and He knows what courage it has taken them to continue to stand by me in silence as the last couple of months have unfolded. Regardless of what transpires next, they will always have my devotion.

I owe you, the people, an explanation for what the newspapers have called my “time AWOL”–but for all the praise that has been heaped upon me as an orator, I have struggled with myself over not only how to speak on the matters that have weighted on my mind and my heart, but, more importantly, what to actually do about them. I must be frank and admit to you that I do not entirely know what I will do about these things. But I do know that the problems we face, we face together as a nation–a nation of divided loyalty and values, yet a nation with a shared destiny, a common fate.

I have learned some things that I did not expect to learn over the last couple of months, and I have come to a certain understanding. It will not please many of those who most devotedly voted to place me in office, nor will it give too great a comfort to many of those who desired my opponent. But truth is not chosen through popular election… and truth is what has confronted me in the harsh weeks I have faced leading up to today.

In the campaign season that just ended, many of us running for office ended our speeches with the words “God bless the United States of America.” My opponent used it at the end of his gracious concession speech. I expressed the same sentiment in my victory speech. At any number of speeches across the country, you would have heard the words “God bless America” come from the mouths of each of us desiring your vote. Some of us don’t believe in a God, and we still say it. Some of us believe in a God, but not one who chooses to intervene in the lives and affairs of men and nations–or who can even be said to “choose” anything at all–and we still say it.

Personally, I do believe there is a God. And it strikes me that if I am to keep uttering that phrase, it should mean something to me.

As I have studied, and prayed, and struggled over the past weeks–suddenly confronting a surprising clarity and understanding that I never expected and, indeed, did not ask for–I have had to ask myself a question, and it’s a question I need to ask all of us assembled here, today: Why should God bless us?

Many who have been my opponents on the other side of the political isle have often taken issue with what they see in me as an opposition to the idea of “American exceptionalism.” They were right in the fact that I did not conceive of the idea in the same way they did. Yet I preached from the bully pulpit my own brand of American exceptionalism. Regardless of where I stood or where they stood, I now have to ask myself: Does either view of that “exceptionalism” truly please the God that I now see has held us up and sustained us — whose hand, if we are honest with ourselves, we cannot help but see shrinking away from us, however slowly? Would He ultimately be more pleased with the vision I have discussed in those times I felt politically safest? Would He ultimately be more pleased with the vision often upheld by my past opponents, those whom I reach out to today as coworkers and friends? Or is the Almighty looking for something altogether different?

Ancient Israel knew something similar–a sense of “Israelite exceptionalism.” Perhaps they, too, began to think it was because of ideas or laws or ways of life that they, themselves, had designed–that they, too, had created their own greatness, or that they, too, were a special people in and of themselves… Forgetting that their exceptionalism was not based upon their being an inherently better nation than all the others, but in the relationship they had with the Almighty in what He was willing to do with them and through them.

Some have wondered about the Bible I chose for my oath of office today… While I did not feel worthy to use the Bible of Washington’s inauguration or of Lincoln’s, that wasn’t the only reason I chose this one. I asked that this Bible be used for the simple fact that it is my own. I’ve read it, before. I’ve prayed over it. But I believe with all my heart that it is only within the last couple of months have I truly begun to understand it. And what I have come to understand and been taught fills me with regret–and, honestly, with fear for our nation, for our union, and for our families–and it challenges me every time I now utter those words, “God bless America.”

And none of the political answers we have heard over countless previous presidencies and senatorial terms are enough to resolve those fears — to answer the questions posed by what this book claims.

On one hand, I do have some cause for real hope. What I see in this book are the best aspirations of both of our political parties. Speaking for my fellow Democrats and our allies and to the best of our declared hopes and ambitions, I see a God described in this book as One who cares passionately and zealously for the poor, for the weak, and for those who have no voice. I see a God who is willing to ensure all who have contribute for the good of those who do not. I see a God who has greater priorities than the bottom line, and a God who is willing to regulate even the smallest aspects of society where necessary so as to guarantee it is just, and good, and a place where all are blessed. Speaking for Republicans and those sympathetic to their stated causes, I see a God who honors the principles of private ownership and private responsibility. I see a God who believes that if a man who can work chooses not to do so, then that man does not eat. I see a God who created the foundations of society in the family and who wisely drafted its design and purpose. And I see a God who claims to know the child from the moment of conception, even before he or she is born.

On the other hand, while I see those values shining brightly from the pages of this amazing book, what I do not find there is any real evidence that we have pursued the realization of those values in a manner that will ever bring success. I see that I have been a part of an industry that has made merchandise out of women’s wombs, and has sacrificed innocent children for the sake of adults’ convenience. I see those elected to be shepherds who worship at the altar of “market forces,” as if those forces alone are sufficient to produce a just and caring society.  I see…

I’m sorry… It was my intention to say more–and there is more to be said–but I need this address to be larger and more hopeful than such a list would allow it to be. Suffice it to say that for a nation whose leaders routinely say, “God bless America,” it is clear that we are doing nothing to truly earn the blessing we request of Him.

I am as guilty as anyone. Our statisticians tell us that between 50 and 70 million across the globe will be watching this speech–an audience my unexpected silence over these past weeks has magnified to some extent. Many of you watching could pull out your smartphones and Google a video of me in my 2008 campaign where I mocked the idea of running a country by the principles of the Bible. For instance, at that time I pointed out the seemingly impossibility of being a nation who turns the other cheek and which disposes of the Department of Defense. I had in mind at the time not a desire to mock the Bible, though I see now that is what I did. I had a desire to the hypocrisy of those who opposed me, claiming to stand for godly, biblical government, as if I did not. I won’t disparage them here on the stage any further than perhaps I already have–if I have been so blind and ignorant, how can I hold their own blindness against them.

But I see an answer now that I did not see then. It is still true: I do not know how one can rule a nation in the modern world while hewing closely to the the laws and principles of this beautiful and wondrous book. I do not know the fullness of the path that takes us from here to there. But what I have learned, if I have learned anything, is that if I will take those steps I know I can, there is a God who can make the next steps clearer. That one does not refuse to take the first few steps because his lamp does not illuminate the entire path… that rather he takes those steps he can see, and that the lamp will not illuminate his next steps until he does so.

This book has shown me that although I am not your lawmaker or your judge, as our Constitution defines my role, as the President I am your leader in a unique and humbling way, and I will be held responsible to God for the choices I make as your President. I questioned in recent weeks whether I should even take the Oath of Office–whether my new understanding prevented me from being able to fulfill that oath or whether I should step aside as a different man than the one you elected. I may still discover that I should step aside, or I may be asked by you, the people, to leave. Time will tell. But I believe at this time that if I am here in this place and in this position, then I must within my limited power do what I can to help us along a path to become a nation God can bless. I cannot make the laws. I cannot judge. But within the authority I do have, I will use this book to guide my decisions and actions. And I will use the pulpit this office gives me to point all of us in the direction we should go. It is not a direction that most any of us have headed before, and I am no exception. But it is the direction that all of us should go. It is toward the pillar of fire and smoke that will lead us to a truly wonderful land — a land we have lost sight of, if we ever saw it truly at all.

I have no illusions. I know that the stand I must now take may make this term shorter than President Harrison’s. This may be the last speech I will ever be allowed to give as an elected official. Many of my cabinet members will choose to resign–some of them may be drafting their letters as I speak, if they haven’t fainted dead away already. I don’t mean to mock them. They are good men and women, every one. It is no fault of theirs that their president has become a different man than the man they knew, and there will be no shame in resigning. For their replacements, I will be open to any person of any party who is willing to help me take this country in this direction–the only direction that will save it.

And when I say “save it,” I am not being melodramatic.

Our nation is on the brink of collapse. The editorial pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bicker over what trouble our nation is in — one editor’s national strength is another editor’s national weakness. Their opinions–and mine–are immaterial. But the God who founded this nation makes it clear that He is the source of our strength and our turning from Him is the source of our weakness. All of us who believed that certain magical “isms” would make America all we hoped it could be–capitalism, socialism, humanism, communism– have done nothing but weaken the nation with each passing administration and term of office. This incredible book supports some of our “isms” in part, but none of them whole. And while we debate amongst ourselves and hold up the humanly-devised code or creed or way of life we individually champion, this same book declares that we have done nothing to forestall our date with destiny. We cannot expect our debt problem to disappear with fiscal policy that does not recognize our Creator in the heart of it, as we are told that it is He who gives us the power to obtain wealth. We cannot expect our poor and destitute to be cared for in the manners of our devising without recognizing the God who claims them as His own. We cannot expect our military to continue to succeed and expect the size of our might to protect and deliver us without recognizing with more than lip service and faithless prayers the God who truly protects and delivers, and who can save or destroy the many at the hands of the few. We cannot continue to hope that our crops will return and our skies will be merciful when we have ignored the One who crafted the soil and the seed, the sun and the sky.

For the nation who forgets these things, this book has some fearsome things to say about the days ahead — things that, since I have come to see them and believe them, have driven me to my knees in tears several times a day in the hope that those days may still be averted.

You know — I was elected in 2008 by many people who hailed me as a savior of sorts. The last four years have stripped them of that illusion. I am no savior. But this nation does have a Savior. And with all the powers that this position vests in me, I will do all I can to turn this nation to that Savior. To His ways, to His laws, to His judgments, and to His mercies. I will seek to do so within the laws and the Constitution I have sworn to uphold, and I am sure that there will be many questions for the Supreme Court in the days ahead. Many of those I have counted, and hope to still count, as friends and who stand beside me today are probably already drawing up the lawsuits in their minds. But that will not change my resolve.

So, I am asking all of you to join me next week on January 28 in a day of prayer and fasting for our nation. I ask you to pray for me, as your president, as I step onto a path that, I do admit, is at once terrifying and inspiring to me–a path that finally recognizes the true potential for our nation to experience the most horrific of fates, yet which also recognizes the only true solution. It is not a path that has not been planned or even imagined by either of our political parties, but I know in the deepest parts of who and what I am that it is the only path we can travel and continue to exist as a people. And I ask you to pray for our once great nation. I have no doubt that my words today will cause upheaval. I see that even now as I look into your faces and find there a mixture of wonder, doubt, hope, sadness, anger, confusion, fury, and, in a very few cases, exhilaration. And for each of those responses, I understand what you are going through. They are the very same emotions I have passed through myself in the hard weeks leading up to today. I can only hope against the odds that those emotions will carry you to the same place mine did.

I leave you today with a quote from this book I’ve mentioned so frequently today, taken from the book of 2 Chronicles and chapter 7, after Solomon had dedicated the temple to his God and to ours. That same God told Solomon as He tells us today: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” My fellow Americans, we need our land healed. We need our sins forgiven. And we need to be heard by the One in heaven. Consequently, we must humble ourselves. And we must pray. And we must seek His face.

In any way in which I have failed to do this before, either in word or in example, I ask your forgiveness. I do not intend to fail you any further. And to my fellow politicians on both sides of the political aisle–indeed, all across this nation’s diverse political spectrum–you have my apologies, too. I know that the President who has spoken today is not the President any of you expected, nor, for most likely all of you, is he the President you want. But, for whatever reason, it is the President which God has decided to give you.

In 2008, I promised “hope and change.” I tell you truly: I did not know what those words truly meant before now. I did not know the real hope that is held out for us. I did not see the change that all of us truly need. But I am beginning to get a glimpse of it now. And I am committed to do all I can to make that change happen… So help me, God.

May God be with us in the difficult days ahead, may He mercifully lead us to repentance, and may God bless the United States of America.

Tis the season…for a national curse?

Toronto Eaton Centre at Christmas, with Swarov...
Wow -- when Christmas Trees attain hyperspace, we know we're in trouble... (Image via Wikipedia)

Every year around this time (rather unfaithfully, methinks), I try to explain why I don’t observe Christmas. Here’s a parade of past attempts:

(Warning: I didn’t actually check those links, so some of them might be “Here’s a link to a post I did a couple of years ago” posts.)

This year, though, I’ve decided to make my life easier and to take advantage of the great commentary we have on the Tomorrow’s World website at the moment: “This the season — customs with a curse” by Mr. Davy Crockett.

Here’s the tiny first paragraph:

Tis the season … a time for beautiful music, lovely pageantry, parties, fun and family time, the annual bedlam in shopping malls, specialty stores, discount houses and now the Internet. [Read more]

To read more, just click “Read more”! To not read more, then don’t click “Read more.” (It’s nice when things are straightforward, huh?)

The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)

A pretty spiral galaxy (Courtesy NASA & STScI). It had a beginning, so does that mean it had a cause?

Recently I wrote a post highlighting a form of Leibniz’s cosmological argument and mentioning how nice it was to see him get some press. Actually, he appeared recently in another book I am currently reading that was just about irresistible at the local Half Price Books when I saw it: The Probability of God, by Stephen D. Unwin. Dr. Unwin is a former theoretical physicist and risk analyst who decided to perform a Bayesian analysis of the probability that the statement “God exists” is true (that is, he calculates P(G)). While, on one hand, I don’t fully agree with all of his points so far–in the spirit of the book, I should say that my confidence in the truth of some of the points he asserts is less than 100%–on the other hand, I understand why, for the sake of the analysis he is trying to do, he makes those points. And it’s amazing to me someone happened to stumble on a recipe for a book that my nature virtually requires me to purchase it. (Theoretical physicist? Risk analyst? Bayesian probability calculations? God’s existence? Can my debit card come out of my wallet fast enough?)

His mention of Leibniz is hilarious in a “wow, what a crazy historical tale the discovery of calculus is, huh?” sort of way.  It went like this in a early passage where he is discussing quantum theory:

Isaac Newton didn’t hear of it, since he was already long dead, but if he had, he would have claimed to have invented it. (This is from my pro-Leibniz joke repertoire and is not really relevant.)

Ha! Not that I side with the Leibniz bunch (the Bernoullis and the gang) on the Newton vs. Leibniz matter, since history has shown the matter to be a draw, but the humor is still appreciated, and the book has quite a bit of that so far. (This really does tempt me to write about the role Calculus has played in empowering the end-time Beast power. I’ve got to write that post one day.)

However, that isn’t really what I intended to write about this morning. Having mentioned Leibniz’ cosmological argument, I thought I would follow up and mention the Kalam cosmological argument, which William Lane Craig (a huge fan of the argument) highlights in his book On Guard to which I referred last time. It’s pleasant and clean in its simplicity and well worth a look for those who enjoy such things:

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

The third statement follows unavoidably from the first two, so the truth of the conclusion boils down to whether or not the first two premises are true. (Note: If one of the premises is false, it does not mean that the conclusion is false, but if both of the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, as well.)

Of course, the conclusion is not a conclusion that many like, so most will argue against one or both of the premises to even extreme limits, but at least the discussion is properly focused. And the two premises have the benefit of seeming reasonable on the surface to most reasonable people: Our common experience in life gives us ample evidence of the likelihood that premise 1 is true (indeed, it is the basis for virtually the entirety of scientific enterprise), and ever since the Big Bang revolutionized thinking in astrophysics, premise 2 has become very reasonable, as well. It is, however, the premise which seems to be debated the most.

Of course, no argument is a “knock down, drag out” winner, because there is always something to debate. Even fulfilled prophecy as evidence for God could be argued by some who are of a mindset like that of unsound thinker Michael Drosnin of “The Bible Code” shame who might claim that the scriptures were inspired not by a prophecy-fulfilling God but, instead, by super-advanced, time-traveling aliens from Zeta Reticuli — an argument-ender if I ever heard one. But arguments can still highlight what is reasonable to conclude, and I think the Kalam argument gives a very strong argument that belief in an eternally existing Creator is entirely reasonable.  (Concerning the groupings in our The Real God: Proofs and Promises booklet, I think it falls under the “Creation Demands a Creator” category.)

Arguments and theological premise-wrangling aside, I really am getting a kick out of Unwin’s The Probability of God, and the math teacher/actuary/minister in me hopes it continues to be as good as it has been so far.  Any guy who ends his book (yes, I’ve peaked ahead, but just a bit!) by helping the reader to create their own spreadsheet to calculate their own probability of God’s existence is a special breed.