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Why “I don’t know” is not an extra option to explain the beginning of the universe

August 9, 2014

Recently I listened to a radio debate between atheist Matt Dillahunty and Christian David Robertson on the UK radio show Unbelievable on the topic ‘why I am not an atheist’.

In the debate Robertson outlined a number of reasons for why he wasn’t an atheist to which Dillahunty responded. The dialogue was feisty and passionate and the debate was very well moderated by Unbelievable host Justin Brierley.

I was fascinated in something raised in their discussion about the origin of matter. Robertson shared that a key reason he wasn’t an atheist concerned the origin of the universe. He asked a very important question, “Where did stuff come from? Why is there anything at all?”

He then said that there were only three options to answer this question:

1. Matter was eternal

2. Matter was created

3. Matter self-generated out of nothing.

Robertson dismissed 1 as contrary to the evidence and 3 as being self-evidently flawed, which left just option 2. Then he pressed Dillahunty to outline which option he believed in.

Dillahunty evaded this challenge by proposing another option: “I don’t know”. Dillahunty went on to criticise the options Robertson offered. He said, “How have you limited it to three? What is your justification? How are these ‘necessarily the only three?’.” 

Robertson’s response was ‘logic’ and I think Robertson is right. There can only be three options to explain the origin of all matter.

You may say ‘I don’t know’ if you can’t adjudicate between the options available. But ‘I don’t know’ cannot become an extra option. You can’t add in any more options, the origin of all matter must be one of these three options.

How do we get to just three options?

The way we determine there are just 3 options is by using the law of non-contradiction (excluded middle). This is basic Aristotelian logic. Where there are two contradictory propositions i.e. where one proposition is the negation of the other, one must be true, and the other false.

To explain how this is the case, I’ll rephrase the options for the origin of matter, which is an extension of my previous thinking on the cosmological argument.

The most fundamental question about the origin of matter (origin of the universe – I’ll use the two interchangeably) is is raised in these contradictory propositions:

(1) The universe did not begin i.e. the universe is eternal

(2) The universe did began. i.e the universe had a beginning

One of those options must be true based on the concept of non-contradiction and the excluded middle (the multiverse raises some more alternatives, yet fundamentally the same basic choices remain). So at this point we have two options, either the universe is eternal or it had a beginning.

If the universe is eternal, there are no further options – matter was eternal, uncreated.

Yet if the universe had a beginning, then we need to explain this origin. Hence two further options open up based on the principle that causation is often explained through the activity of an agent. Hence the options:

(2a) The universe began as the result of the work of a personal agent.

(2b) The universe did not begin as the result of the work of a personal agent.

One of those options must be true based on the concept of non-contradiction and the excluded middle.

At this point we are then faced with the two options of atheism or theism. The best description for a personal agent creating the universe in (2a), I would suggest would be ‘God’. So it seems that God creating the universe is a valid option to explain the origin of matter. Whether that is the best option is another question.

The other option to explain the origin of matter is atheism – i.e. option (2b) – that the universe began without the work of a personal agent. The most natural conclusion of this option is that the universe was self-creating. (This particular option does raise the curious question of how the universe could be created without an agent? I’m not dismissing this as impossible, but an atheist would need to describe a valid mechanism by which a universe can begin without agency.)

So based on logic and non-contradiction we have three basic options to explain the origin of the universe, which are incidentally the three options outlined by Robertson:

1. The universe is eternal

2. The universe was created by God.

3. The universe was self-creating.

There is no other space for ‘I don’t know’. Hence Dillahunty was wrong in his rejection of Robertson’s options and it seemed slightly confusing to propose that there might be other options. How could there be other options? Where in the logic trail can you add extra options?

Until Dillahunty can offer satisfactory further alternatives, logic dictates that we must all choose one of these three options to explain the origin of the universe.

So which option do you think is most reasonable? I’m very keen to hear thoughts.

In my next post I’ll outline why I think that option 2 is the most reasonable, but I’ll give a quick hint. The early church claimed that Jesus created everything and this might give us the name of the agent through whom all things were created. 😉


“Image courtesy of bulldogza /”

From → Bible, Jesus, Philosophy

  1. Sorry, but no:

    (2b) The universe did not begin as the result of the work of a personal agent.

    …is NOT the same as “The universe was self-creating.”. If it was not created by a personal agent, the only direct opposite would be… “Was NOT created by a personal agent”, so your three choices would look like…

    1. The universe is eternal

    2. The universe was created by God.

    3. The universe was not created by God.

    So what? That’s not very much, because, yes you could ask…

    a) the universe is eternal
    b) the universe is not eternal (thus began)

    c) if the universe began, is was because of Peter Lancaster (42), Tottenham Court Road, London
    d) if the universe began, it was NOT because of Peter Lancaster (42), Tottenham Court Road, London

    yes, that’s true, trivial and completely boring, because it says absolutely nothing.

    • Thanks for your comment – just to clarify, then how can something ‘not’ created by a personal agent begin to exist without it being self-creating?

      • From a non-personal agent, for example? That’s one of many fallacies of the cosmological argument: Even if you were to show that there needs to be a first cause, this first cause does not have to be a “person” somehow. For example, something could exist eternally, like a quantum vacuum) from which universes arise. This something does not need to be a person.

        So, personally, I would agree that there are two big choices:

        a) Did the universe have a beginning or not (at the moment, the Big Bang theory, etc. seems to point that way).

        b) If the universe had a beginning, how did it arise?

        And yes, you can randomly cut the answers to b) in two parts:

        “Something personal caused it” vs. “Something non-personal caused it”

        …but also…

        “Something blue did it” vs. “Something non-blue did it.”

        Nowhere is there any real “statement”, as we have no clue how “big” (for example, measured by probability) these two parts are. Taking one random answer and contrast it with its negation is still random.

        And of course, the whole thing is even more complicated as the answer itself may not even make sense – as shown by my 2nd example: Outside the universe is no matter, no light, etc. “blue” is a concept that very likely makes no sense at all, so the answer is not even wrong.

      • Thanks for the response Atomic. But your response that the universe being created from a non-personal agent just pushes back the ‘who created that?’ question one more. To claim that the universe comes from a non-personal agent moves you more to option 1. that the universe is eternal (which you have admitted through an ‘eternal quantum vacuum).

        I also disagree that by dissecting via agency is ‘random’. As I said, agency is the commonest reason for causation that we understand. My question is ‘how can a non-eternally existing anything ‘create’ a universe other than it being self-creating?’

        I could have re-adjusted options 2a and 2b to be: (2c) ‘The universe was self-creating’, (2d) ‘The universe was not self-creating’ – the best option for 2d I would suggest is a personal agent. Unless you can offer a plausible alternative?

        Thanks for interacting, it’s helpful to hear what people are thinking.

      • No, I personally suppose the universe itself is not without beginning (Big Bang, etc.). But if we assume a cause, for example a quantum vacuum, this cause could be without beginning. And without beginning, there would not need to be any creation.

        And no, the best option is surely not “a personal agent”. That’s only what many people want to be true, because of religion. A personal agent opens up much more question than it answers and seems much more unlikely. The most easy explanation would be a very, very, very simple state of being, like the mentioned quantum vacuum (or something like that). Assuming a highly complex state of existing (like a person) is neither required nor useful. That’s like assuming a person behind gravity: Yes, you can do so, it just doesn’t explain more, but less.

  2. I agree with AM, but even if I agreed with the article and conceded the universe must have been created by a god, the theist still has to show why their 5 headed elephant god, resurrecting carpenter etc are the correct god.

    • Thanks Godless, but you miss the point of the article. The point of the article was to demonstrate that ‘I don’t know’ is not a valid option in understanding the origin of the universe. I will get to why I think that a resurrecting carpenter is the correct god in the next post.

  3. Steven Carr permalink

    At what moment in time did the universe not exist?

    Logically, there are only 3 possibilities.

    1. God was eternal

    2. God was created

    3. God self-generated out of nothing.

    I can dismiss 1 as contrary to the evidence. There is no evidence that there is a god at all, let alone an eternal god.

    • You are correct in your three options, yet how can you dismiss 1 as ‘contrary’ to the evidence? What evidence will be convincing for you?

      • Steven Carr permalink

        So you are claiming there is evidence of a god that has existed even when the universe didn’t?

        What evidence is that? How can a god exist at at time when you claim nothing existed?

  4. Steven Carr permalink

    It is surprising that scientists have spent billions and billions of dollars building a Large Hadron Collider to try to research topics related to the beginning of the universe, when all they had to do is ask a priest who will tell them it was all created by magic.

    • Correct (except the magic part)! Interestingly when the evidence for the ‘Big Bang’ emerged and evidence for a beginning to the universe it was fiercely opposed in the scientific community. And there were some Christians who were saying that the Bible has been saying this all along. If people had taken the Bible more seriously rather than Aristotle, then we should have expected the findings we discovered!

      • Most new stuff gets discussed hotly, that’s how it works. What we see now is, that the best theory won, as always in science – sometimes it takes a few years, but it’s inevitable. What would have happened had it been religion? The pope would have declared the one theory sounding more fitting to the holy book as dogma and we would have no clue at all.

  5. Rob, Mr Mutant is succinctly correct again.
    However, there is also a reason why Matt Dillahunty’s response (“I don’t know”) is valid, and it points to another one of the flaws in the cosmological argument.
    When you’re talking about the beginning of universes (assuming they are not eternal, and the evidence indicates that ours isn’t), you have to keep in mind that the physical laws as we know them don’t necessarily apply. In fact, the logic of syllogisms that you’ve used doesn’t necessarily apply.
    Keep in mind that the laws of physics – and the laws of logic – are descriptive. They aren’t prescriptive. In other words, these laws are things that humans use to describe and account for the things that we see around us.
    The philosophy of this can be hard to grasp, but the point is that we have nothing to tell us about the “moments” leading into, or indeed at the instantaneous start of, our universe. We have nothing to tell us about “nothing”. Not even logic. We have no evidence for thinking the “nothing” you refer to was ever an actual state of affairs.
    Everything we know about the universe, including our descriptive nature about logic, applies only to the universe we live within. So to answer “I don’t know” when talking about this stuff, not only is a reasonable answer, in fact it is the only answer.

    • Thanks Skept. I agree that physical laws aren’t clear for the origin of the universe (and we have to be very careful about understanding that), but are you also saying that logical laws also don’t apply to explain the origin of the universe?

      How aren’t logical laws prescriptive? i.e. isn’t the very basis of mathematics? i.e. that we say that 2 + 2 must always equal 4 (unless you’re Lawrence Krauss of course 😉

      • Rob, mathematics, including logic, is a language. It is a human construct that we use to make sense of things. We map the reality we observe, using language/mathematics/logic, into forms that make sense to our consciousness. And logic, when used correctly (and it isn’t always used correctly in philosophical arguments), successfully describes the behaviour of things within our universe.

        However, there is no justification for extrapolating the language of logic to apply outside our universe. If you want to insist that logic must apply beyond our universe, then it would have to be prescriptive. And anything prescriptive requires a prescriber – what you would call God.
        Hence, if you hold to this line of reasoning, you commit the ‘begging the question’ fallacy – you’ve embedded the conclusion in your premises.

  6. Why does the universe exist?

    I don’t know. Neither does David Robertson. What’s wrong with pointing that out?

    • So what is wrong with Robertson’s logic? Which logical option is flawed?

      • Steven Carr permalink

        You can’t work out how Robertson’s logic is flawed?

        Let’s try some elementary philosophy.

        Christians love to talk about contingent and necessary worlds.

        The state of affairs where only your hypothetical god existed is a contingent world.

        It can’t be a necessary state of affairs as it doesn’t now exist.

        So the state of affairs where only your hypothetical god existed is contingent upon something.

        So something must have created the state of affairs where only your hypothetical god existed.

        So Christians have painted themselves into a corner. They need a god to create the state of affairs where only their god existed, as they claim that a contingent state of affairs needs a creator.

      • Firstly, we have to get this straight: Matt never said there were more than 3 options. He asked how David narrowed it down to 3. Different thing, but he is now believed amongst apologists to have positively claimed that there were more than 3. Typically apologists fail to distinguish between “I don’t accept P” and “I say ~P”. This is yet another example.

        David didn’t “do the math”. When challenged as to how he arrived at those three options, he needed to argue his claim. You have presented an argument on the point. I think your argument fails, for reasons already set out by others (if the universe was created, then no reason to believe it was by a conscious agent). But at least you tried. David didn’t even try.

        However, even if David had succeeded in narrowing it down to the 3 options he put forward, that would not have invalidated “I don’t know” as the most accurate answer. “I don’t know” in no way implies that there must be an “unknown further option”. It just means that of all the possible answers, we don’t know which of them is correct.

        For instance, how I wish that the passengers in the carriage when I got on the tube this morning had answered my question “Does this train go to Harrow and Wealdstone?” “We don’t know”. Then I would not have had to lug all my bags and baggage off at Queens Park to get on another train. Either the train was going to Harrow & Wealdstone, or it wasn’t. But the other passengers would not have breached the law of excluded middle by saying “Don’t know” instead of “Oh, uh, yeah, Harrow and Wealdstone.” They would only have acknowledged that, the human condition being what it is, we do not know the answer to all questions. Not even simple yes or no ones sometimes.

      • True Matt never said that there were more than three options. But he did ask why limit it to 3. I agree with your comments, but if you say that it can’t be limited to three, then he has to offer some alternatives otherwise Dillahunty’s claim sound a bit weak doesn’t it?

        I agree that David needed to do the maths and argue his claim. I have outlined an argument (which I think can be strengthened – in the comments). I also felt that David confused two categories in his discussion with Matt. He confused ‘design’ with ‘first cause’. I think he needed to argue for one or the other but the two were a little conflated and confused together.

        In terms of ‘I don’t know’, I completely agree and that’s why I said in my post. You can be unsure among the options, but that is very different to adding another option, ‘I don’t know’. Hence your example is irrelevant because there are two options, either the train goes to Harrow or Wealdstone or it doesn’t. I don’t know is not a logical alternative option.

      • I agree that “I don’t know” is not an *extra* option. But I don’t think Matt ever said it was. I think this becomes clear if you listen to the gumball machine analogy towards the end of the debate. Obviously Matt is not saying that “I don’t know” is some kind of third option to “odd” or “even”. He is making the very point that you entirely accept: that you can have exhausted the possible options but still have to say “I don’t know” when asked which is correct.

        David completely misunderstood Matt and with all due respect, I think you have too, so the premise of your OP is a straw man.

      • I thought he did. He said in response to Robertson, ‘why have you limited it to just three?’. and then said, ‘why aren’t there four or five options’. As I said in my original post (and was the point of the original post). Happy to be corrected but I was just quoting (what I thought Dellahunty was saying) in the debate (at around the 20 minute mark or so – from memory).

      • I’ve just listened again to the part that I think you must be referring to. I think you’ll find that it’s David who says that Matt is claiming that there are four or five or six options. Matt never says that himself.

        You and David seem to have interpreted Matt as saying “I do not accept your three options **because there may be other unknown options which neither you nor I are aware of.**” Of course that would be a stupid stance to take.

        That was not what Matt was saying. He was simply saying that David was claiming to know something when he had no basis for claiming knowledge. I am confident that I am right about this for two reasons:
        1. The gumball analogy (again). The whole point of the analogy was to take an example of something where there were only two options, and use it to illustrate Matt’s point that sometimes the correct answer is still “I don’t know.”
        2. Because I am a fan of Matt’s, I know that this “I don’t know” is a recurring theme in his discussions. Coincidentally, I was listening to The Thinking Atheist podcast today, which was a recording of a talk given by Matt. In that talk he again emphasises the need to say “I don’t know” when, well, you don’t know. Here is a link:
        It’s about 10 minutes in (so you don’t have to listen to the whole thing, unless you want to).

  7. Baptist Joshua permalink

    Hello. To start out, I am unfamiliar with this website. Call me Baptist Joshua. I am a Christian. I did not listen to the radio program, nor do I know the men involved. But I did see a huge error in the “Christian’s” side of the issue. Mr. Robertson. Now not having heard the context of the actual program, I may be way off, but I read in your article how he speaks of scientific proof which causes him to be a Christian. Christians who deal with skeptics, atheists, agnostics, etc., tend to “bait” them with all sorts of proofs of Biblical truth. But they have forgotten something. An atheist will never be proved into Christianity. Science does not save. It may be used, but it cannot save. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” Romans 5:1, KJV. Christians, some of them, seem to forget, or don’t want to admit to a condemned person, that they need faith, not science. They are not mutually contradictory. Science does back up scripture. I am not ashamed to admit that salvation requires faith. You can have all the proof of God in the world, but that doesn’t make you saved. Satan knows of God. So say a Christian breaks down every “logic” and “science” defense an atheist has. Will the atheist believe? No. His mind is filled with new knowledge, but his heart remains the same. Only with the Word of God, will an atheist change.

    “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23

    “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

    “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

    “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

    • Thanks Baptist Joshua. I disagree that atheists will ‘never’ be proved into Christianity. Atheists are keen to hear for evidence for God and rational discussion on these things (and less keen to hear Bible verses). There have been many atheists who have been convinced of Christianity based on evidence including CS Lewis, Lee Strobal, Craig Keener, Josh McDowell and many others. This blog is a place for me to discuss intelligently with atheists some of these big questions and to challenge the assertion that there is no ‘rational’ reason to believe. My opinions have been changed and modified based on some of these discussions and I hope I have done the same with some atheists as well. I hope you are able to intelligently contribute to the discussion.

      • Baptist Joshua permalink

        Thank you. I did not mean to come across like I was saying that there is no place for extra-biblical discussion. There may be. I just mean that the best way of ending an argument is to use the double-edged sword. Christians may understand what I mean, if atheists don’t get that.

    • WorldGoneCrazy permalink

      Hey Baptist Joshua, I just wanted to give you one example of someone who was proved into Christianity – me! I was an atheist until 42, and then became a Christian primarily because of science, logic, philosophy, etc. (Of course, the Holy Spirit led me to those waters, but I did drink. 🙂 And, I should also note that all truth is God’s truth.) There are 3 ways I could NEVER have been saved: asking me to read the Bible (my standard saying on the Bible was that “anyone who believes there is anything true in that book is a complete and total idiot”, exact quote), inviting me to church (been there, “not impressed by people who believe myths”), or telling me to “just believe.” In fact, I think these reasons just might be why 2/3 of the evangelical Church is falling away in its early adulthood.

      So, I just want to be clear on this: prodded by the Holy Spirit, I sincerely sought after Truth. I eventually caught up with Him, but it was solid evidential apologetics (guided by the Holy Spirit) that kept me moving forward. It was the only way for me to approach the Cross. Others may get there by different routes, but not me. I have been told that I am an outlier, but Praise God that he accepts outliers! And, my trust has only be strengthened daily during the past 12 years through the intense study of apologetics and theology, which match up so beautifully. I probably have not stated this very well, but I hope this helps and thanks for the post – God bless!

      • Thanks for sharing your testimony here. I really appreciate that.

      • WorldGoneCrazy permalink

        I actually have a longer version that ties in with Kalam, the Moral Argument, The Problem of Evil (for both sides!), etc, but since I had not posted here before, I did not wish to get booted after my first time. 🙂 I really like the looks of your blog and the tone of it too.

      • Baptist Joshua permalink

        Attn. WorldGoneCrazy: A person will never be proved into being saved. They believe. I am not saying that apologetics can’t be used, but it is the work and Word of God which are used in salvation. You can show a man all the proof in the world, and yet he will not trust Christ as Saviour. Here is proof:

        Luke 16:19-31 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

        And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

        And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

        And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

        And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

        And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

        But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

        And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

        Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:

        For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

        Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

        And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

        And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

        So the rich man rejects the Word of God(Nay, father Abraham:), wants PROOF to save his brethren, but Abraham points out that if they reject scripture, they will reject Truth, though one rose from the dead. Well, Christ rose from the dead, didn’t he, and yet men reject him.

        We are saved when we repent of sin, and are turned to Christ! No baptism can save. No belief in God. No good works. No communion. No church membership.

        Luke 7:50
        And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

      • WorldGoneCrazy permalink

        Hi Baptist Joshua – thanks for the reply.

        “We are saved when we repent of sin, and are turned to Christ! No baptism can save. No belief in God. No good works. No communion. No church membership.”

        I agree 100%. But, that does not have anything to do with my original post.

        “A person will never be proved into being saved. They believe.”

        These two sentences you wrote are at odds with one another if the reason the person comes to believe is the Holy Spirit providing evidence so that they will believe. Turning on the Light so to speak. Jesus promises us that if we seek, we shall find, so the key to approaching the Cross is to be a sincere truth-seeker. Christian faith is not blind faith but more akin to trust. We do not trust blindly, but based on evidence. Jesus led the way when it comes to evidence. Here is a summary of this, with Biblical references:

        I think we should leave blind faith to the atheists. I also think that one reason 2/3 of the evangelical Church is falling away in early adulthood is that they have been told to “just believe,” and they realize that such a concept works as well for Islamic terrorists, Hindus, Planned Parenthood supporters, etc, as for Christians. Christians are supposed to be set apart. Ours is a Relationship rooted in Reality (the Ultimate Unconditioned Reality) – not a blind faith cult. Great talking with you and God bless!

      • Baptist Joshua permalink

        That part you quoted may not have directly had anything to do with your post, but was to let people know where I come from, so to speak. And it was for the “atheists” and any false Christians here.

        Joshua 24:14
        ¶ Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.

        Lost man may sincerely look for God, or at least the god of their wicked imaginations and lusts, but not in truth. Who had a better front row seat than Judas Iscariot? He saw, yet, apparantly did not perceive. Proof was not enough. Evidence may have been used to bring you to a saving faith, but if a man is converted, it is done by God, and somewhere you were probably given the Gospel. You can watch and watch, but where there is no seed, no plant will spring.

        I believe that many of those who give up on Christianity were never saved to begin with. Yes, a believer can rebel, but I mean that most, so called, Christians, are merely religious people who are unconverted. Then as they get older, because of their sin nature and lusts of the flesh, they throw off what “morality” and reeeeeeligion they had. Big with the “Evangelical” movement, I mean, the Assembly of God and non-denominational types, is the Lordship salvation heresy. That is, that some nowadays teach a trade. A life of servitude to God for salvation. That is the heresy of Rome. Salvation is a free gift–Ephesians 2:8-9. It is not of works. Devotion, if it comes, is AFTER conversion. So people are out there with a false security of being a Christian.

        “Christians are supposed to be set apart.” Boy oh boy, I wish I could see more of that. Christians are so carnal, at least here, in America. They tell the atheist or the agnostic, “Hey, be a Christian like me!” Then they act like the world.

  8. Baptist Joshua permalink

    P.S. “Science” is worshipped by the evolutionist/atheist/agnostic, etc., as ultimate truth, yet what in “science” has not been eventually proven wrong? So much of former “science” which was held as the truth, of its day, is now “known” to be wrong. “Science” once taught that a smaller object would fall more slowly than a larger object. “Science” once taught that the Earth was flat. That anyone you wanted to enslave was just an animal. Now it teaches that we are ALL animals.

    • Sorry, claims about “ultimate truth” is your area. Science isn’t concerned with it. Science is all about “true enough – for now”. Pointing out that science always gets better, always learns, is always willing to admit having been wrong as if it was a point against it is really funny.

      • Baptist Joshua permalink

        Your words condemn your own claim. You prove my point. Science isn’t about “ultimate truth.” Hmm. What is it then? About butter? About vapour? Here for awhile, then blown away? Nothing–NOTHING, is “true enough.” It is truth, or it is error. Don’t play philosophical games of symantics. Atheists argue against “ultimate truth” all the time, claiming they don’t know it. NO DUH! You claim “science doesn’t attempt to answer ultimate truth.” Then what does it claim to answer? Temporary truth? That’s how evolutionists excused the slave trade. Was it true enough then? 2 + 2 = 4. It always has been and always will be. You atheists/evolutionists look to science for the answers and mock Christians with your endless “papers” and “journal studies” to back up those answers. But when a Christian mentions that you believe those things you claim to be actually true, you come right back with, “science does not attempt to answer ultimate truth.” Then you post a final statement of how quaintly humorous we Christians are down here, for you up there on the teacher’s chair. Gag me wit a spoon.

      • It always surprises me how easily Christians, tread on dangerous grounds by trying to accuse to mix evolutionary theory and slavery, when a) it was presented by Darwin just a decade before the american civil war (meaning that slavery was around long before the theory of evolution) b) the main thing that was used to justify was the bible (which tells slaves to obey their masters and how to punish slaves). So, you have dug a very dangerous hole – and jumped right into it.

        And, allow me to correct your mistakes please: Look, for example, at the Newtonian Theory of Gravity. It is what we could call “true enough”. It works for things that don’t move with light speed well enough, but for that, we needed another theory – relativity. So, while we know now, that the theory is not completely right, it’s still good enough to, for example, calculate the movements of cars on earth.

        So, yes, science would like to answer the ultimate truth – you could call that the ideal of science – but it has never done so and no sane person would claim it. Every scientist has to accept that his knowledge is probably flawed and will inevitably be replaced with something better. Science may be looking for the ultimate truth, but as a painter who tries to create ultimate beauty, it is not expecting to achieve it – only to learn and get better than it was yesterday.

        What does 2+2 have to do with science? You are confusing math and science.

        All a Christian has is a claim which he calls “faith”. That’s nice for him. All science has, are results. You are typing on a computer, that was the result of science, not prayer. You are enjoying a life with far less diseases than a century ago – thanks to science. You are enjoying a much higher life expectancy – thanks to prayer… ups, no, science again. People were able to walk on the moon – did they pray themselves up there? Nope, again, science.

        And of course I cannot take your seriously if you honestly belief that the ability to learn, to get better, etc. and not insist on old errors is a FLAW instead of a great advantage. I know that religion claims never to do that, but of course, THAT would be flaw – and it isn’t true. Religion also adapts all the time, it just tries to conceal the fact to keep people believing that there was some “absolute truth” behind it.

  9. Steven Carr permalink

    I see.

    So Christians are claiming that people should take Genesis 1 literally?

    I thought it had been agreed that the party line was for Christians to claim that Genesis 1 is not meant to be a factual account of creation.

    • “Christians” are not one group. There are thousands of different groups using that name – and they couldn’t agree on the time of the day even if faced with only one clock. The usage of one common name is just a political ploy to be able to call themselves the “majority”, when in fact this “majority” is just a huge group of minorities.

      • Steven Carr permalink

        Actually, they could agree on the time of day, even when faced with 2 clocks.

        Mark 15:25 says it was the third hour when Jesus was crucified.

        John 19:14 says it was the sixth hour.

        Apparently, the third hour and the sixth hour are both the same time…. You can ask yourself how Christians can’t see that those are two different times.

    • Baptist Joshua permalink

      Since when? Genesis 1 is literal.

  10. Baptist Joshua permalink

    ATOMIC MUTANT, and others: Apparently there is no ability to reply to your reply, above, so I will try to do so here. In your statement a) above, you mention that slavery predates darwin, therefore, evolution is not to blame. The myth of evolution predates darwin. White men “thought” that the black man was still an animal. Maybe they visited a few government sponsored museums! Interesting how evolutionistic modelers make ancient man, look like a black man. Kinky hair, dark skin, large lips and nose. Hmm… Touch o’the racist, me thinks.

    In statement b), you said that the main thing used to justify slavery was the Bible. So Alfred Pennyworth was a slave? He was Bruce Wayne’s servant. Is a servant a slave? You misquoted. It does not say “slave,” but servant.

    “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” Ephesians 6:5, 6, KJV.

    “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. ¶ Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” Colossians 3:22-4:1, KJV.

    “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” 1 Peter 2:18, 19, KJV.

    Atomic Mutant, you posted that “All science has, are results.” This was done to compare to a Christian’s worthless faith, in your estimation. Yet science’s results, are, as you admit, flaw. You do not KNOW that there is no God. But you do KNOW that science is flawed. What are we arguing about here, exactly?

    You also said, “Religion also adapts all the time, it just tries to conceal the fact to keep people believing that there was some “absolute truth” behind it.” Which religion are you speaking about? Roman Catholicism? I am no roman catlicking man. I am a Christian. Specifically, Baptistic. I agree that many religions change. Look at rome. They now openly allow all sorts of things they once did not, at least, we are told. I am no catholic. I speak of scripture, not of men’s invented religions. So many atheists I speak to come from a roman catholic background(either directly catholic or one of its offshoots, like, methodism, etc.) I make no claims of accuracy for their false religions. I speak of scripture. You would do well to disdain the false religions. Also, I use the KJV, so I can’t back up other uninspired works.

  11. Baptist Joshua: “…Apparently there is no ability to reply to your reply, above, so I will try to do so here….”

    Everything in this comment is just so way off, I don’t even know where to start.

    So, rather than correcting your mistakes and misunderstandings, or challenging your beliefs, it is probably more worthwhile to ask what you’re trying to accomplish here?

    Are you interested in considered debate? Do you think you could possibly learn anything new, from either other Christians, or even atheists? Or are you here because you just want a platform to pronounce what you see as the one truth?

    If you genuinely want discussion and debate, that’s fine, but you’d do well to ‘listen’ carefully to others on the subjects of slavery, evolution, and science, because at the moment you don’t seem to understand some of these concepts at all. Like, at the level of basics.

    If you just want to tell the rest of what is correct and what is incorrect, you just won’t get an interested or respectful audience. At the moment, you look like that disturbed hobo guy that wanders around the city with a sandwich board that reads “Repent now for the end is nigh”.

    • This has turned into a most extraordinary series of comments (I’m delighted to have stimulated such a robust discussion). Yet I do feel that some of the discussion has gone a little off track. I don’t want to stand in the way of a good discussion, but I do feel that I tend to agree with some of the atheists here. I appreciate the comments of many of the atheists here and I do learn from them.

      Hence I do appreciate ‘on topic’ comments which take the debate further. But I tend to agree with The Skept here, I’m unsure of Baptist Joshua’s comments. Some of the key values I hold and I hope are represented in this blog are of ‘rigour’ and ‘respect’. I would appreciate the same from comments as well.

      In my mind ‘preaching’ and failure to engage (from both atheists and Christians) is inappropriate. I’d appreciate good intelligent discussion. Thanks.

      • Baptist Joshua permalink

        Robanddi, I, in posting scripture, represent the Truth. Now when you know the Truth, you can be confident that you are right. I am asking the atheist to question his own beliefs. Debate and “intelligent discussion” will not turn an atheist into a Christian. When an atheist posts sources and claims, he is having “intelligent conversation.” When a Christian posts claims and scripture, he is “preachy.” That is unfair. What good is dialogue without conviction? Debate without repentance? It is worthless.

        I never said that I cannot learn from an atheist. But it will never be on evolution, for evolution is a fairy tale. It is not a theory. A theory is a plausible cause of an event, which both follows the rules of science, and has been tested at least once. Unfortunately, the term, “theory” has undergone a wishy-washy change of meaning. Evolution is not a hypothesis, because a hypothesis requires a following of the rules of science, yet not an actual test, yet. Evolution is a farce. But on other subjects, I am sure an evolutionist can teach something.

  12. Baptist Joshua permalink

    Or here is a question! The man above uses “I don’t know” as a plausible answer. That is the lack of an answer. My question is this: I ask an atheist, “Is God a part of science?” He will say, “No.” I can then ask, “Then if God is not a part of science, how can science disprove God?”

  13. Baptist Joshua: “…I, in posting scripture, represent the Truth. […]
    When a Christian posts claims and scripture, he is “preachy.” That is unfair…”

    At the moment, you are failing to demonstrate any understanding of discussion and debate.
    You are not presenting any form of argument. You’re basically saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong, so there.”
    You cannot engage any atheist (or any other rational human) this way and expect a meaningful dialogue.
    If you genuinely want a discussion and debate, you try to persuade the other parties (or, more likely, observers of the discussion), by saying, “this is right, because X…”. Or, “your view is wrong, or probably wrong, because X.”
    You need to describe “X” in terms that are backed by evidence, sound logic, or some other persuasive point.

    I hesitate to respond any further, because I suspect I’m wasting my time. However, I’ll give it a try anyway. I challenge you to discuss and debate properly.

    So, here are your most recent errors:
    1. “…evolution is a fairy tale. It is not a theory. A theory is a plausible cause of an event, which both follows the rules of science, and has been tested at least once….”
    This is a common and frequently repeated misunderstanding by people that have never had any kind of formal training in science. The definition of theory, as it applies to evolution, and say, the Big Bang, relativity, germ theory, the behaviour of gases within an enclosed vessel, etc., is simply a description of part of our measurable and observable world. A scientific theory is built up over a significant number of repeatable observations, supported by significant, and usually overwhelming collections of evidence. It is intrinsically falsifiable, meaning that if compelling evidence disputing a theory is discovered, then the theory must be abandoned or significantly altered by the scientific community.

    Evolution through natural selection is a very, very robust scientific theory. To put it in the simplest terms, thousands of scientists have collected, reported and discussed an enormous and diverse body of evidence collected over a period of 150 years to support this theory. No dissenter to this theory has ever (EVER) presented compelling evidence to bring it into serious dispute.

    Anti-evolutionists will use arguments like “the Biblical account of Genesis refutes it” (which isn’t evidence), or “there are no transitional fossils” (there are thousands), or “evolution can’t account for species divergence” (yes, it can), or “it isn’t repeatable” (observations give rise to the theory, and they have been repeated, not just across species, but also genii, families, orders, classes, phyla, and kingdoms), or a variety of other poorly articulated claims that indicate either dogmatic literal belief in a holy book (such as the Bible or Quran), or just a misunderstanding of the theory.

    If you really want to throw serious doubt on the theory of evolution by natural selection, what you could do is unearth a complex fossil (say, a bone from a vertebrate) from a rock stratum dating from a time significantly earlier than they have previously been known to appear. This is one way in which the theory is falsifiable, and if you succeed, you’d turn the theory on its head, probably win a Nobel Prize, and be a hero to the creationist movement forever.

    2. “…Then if God is not a part of science, how can science disprove God?” “
    Another common mistake. “Science” does not attempt to disprove God.
    The problem with the God hypothesis (note: I didn’t use the word “theory”) is that it is intrinsically unfalsifiable. Most atheists, in my experience at least, say “I don’t believe in God” rather than “I believe there is no God”. The difference might seem subtle, but it is important.
    Similarly, I (and I assume you probably) don’t believe in flying unicorns. But neither of us can say dogmatically that they don’t exist.
    Atheists usually hold to the position that we don’t believe (something highly implausible) unless/until it can be demonstrated to be true. In the case of the claim about the existence of God, this hasn’t been done in any persuasive way.

  14. Ed Atkinson permalink

    Sorry Rob, leaving comments like confetti on loads of your threads!

    I think it’s time a supporter of Matt Dillahunty did suggest a fourth option and here is my contribution. ……. “Matter” is not a simple concept when we are speaking of the origin of the Universe. Some aspects of matter are eternal and some, such as the space, time and energy in our observable universe, suddenly arose.

    A fifth option could be similarly based on the uncertainty in the word ‘eternal’.

    • Which aspects of matter are eternal and how do you demonstrate that?

    • I don’t mind the confetti comments, but I might miss responding to some. Not sure how either of these options are viable I’m afraid, eg eternal matter implies an eternal universe

      • Ed Atkinson permalink

        I think this discussion is stuck until we agree the meaning of ‘universe’. Is it just our universe from the Big Bang? Or does it include the laws or whatever that produce universes like ours?

  15. Ed Atkinson permalink

    This is presented as an option to show why it was fair for Matt to suggest that the three options presented by David were indeed not exhaustive. I am not demonstrating that it is the correct one. See your setup post.

    The aspects of matter that would be eternal would be the physical laws which apply to any universe and cause universes to arise in Big Bangs. However the previous sentence must be taken carefully as our language breaks down completely for this state which is outside space and time. Back to Matt’s “I don’t know”

  16. matt permalink

    It doesn’t matter how you break it down, “I don’t know” is always a perfectly fine answer. In all of our thought experiments there should always be a margin of error. It would be absurd to think that we have thought of everything and that no other possibilities exist (it would also be absurd to think that we are not making any mistakes in our methods). “I don’t know” is a freedom that we should all exercise. It is an acknowledgement of the limitations and the fallibility of our brains. It is a phrase that allows our minds to be free of unnecessary conclusions.

    But to entertain this thought experiment anyway, I’ll take a crack at it.

    1. History exists.
    There is no denying that change happens. It is the reason we named time. So we can at least assume that because change occurs and creates history then there was either a beginning or there is an eternity. It is compelling that our study of the origins of the universe seemingly point to a singular event. This would be something like a beginning. However, it is also acknowledged that this event may not be the beginning of everything and perhaps even more history precedes it. So in the interest of the original post above I’ll explore the two possibilities. One of a beginning and one of an eternity.

    2. Eternity or origin?
    If there is a single beginning for all that exists then the question is, from whence and why? How could the universe not have existed at some point in the past? How could all that makes up the universe be created with no previous event or cause? And why would so much energy and matter all of the sudden begin to exist without any previous history? It doesn’t fit well into our understanding of the relationship between cause and effect. Well then let’s consider the other possibility which is that all that makes up the universe has always existed in some way. Confoundingly this also does not fit well with our understanding of the way things work. How can there be no beginning or end? Both propositions are baffling quandries that defy explanation (hence the response, “I don’t know”).

    3. Deity proposal is a cheat.
    This leads me to address the proposal of a deity. The idea that a powerful being created the universe and everything in it. This is supposed to explain the scenario in which the universe did not exist at some point in the past and then came into existence. I can’t help but roll my eyes a little at this proposal, not because I’m an atheist (I am), but because it suggests that a deity is somehow separate from the universe. It is a cheat of logic. When speaking of the universe I assume we all understand that we are speaking of everything that exists. If a deity exists then it is also part of the universe. So then we are still stuck with the two possibilities. If the deity is considered to be eternal then so is the history of the universe (by way of cause and effect). If the deity is not eternal then it too must have an origin. The existence or non existence of a deity does not actually help us solve the question of the origin of the universe because if a deity does exist and is responsible for creating matter and energy then the deity itself would be part of the system known as the universe and that would still leave us wondering about the origin or eternalness of the deity (let alone the debate of the existence of the deity to which many a good thinking person would reply, “I don’t know.”)

    Considering all of this, the proposal in the original post of this blog is (in my opinion) flawed and “I don’t know” seems to be the best response considering the intangible nature of the subject.

    p.s. The title of the original blog post is also flawed. “I don’t know” is not an explanation, it is a response to a question. If one had an explanation then the response would not be, “I don’t know.” So the title, “Why “I don’t know” is not an extra option to explain the beginning of the universe” is incongruent with the meaning of the phrase, “I don’t know.” Sorry to be pedantic, but when discussing such things such as this topic it is necessary to be linguistically clear and precise.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Baptist Joshua permalink

      Awww… I am a Christian. I don’t get to have thought experiments. I only get to have imaginations. 😉

      Matthew, the Bible teaches that for us, there is an origin, but outside of that, there is an eternity. From what we know of nature, we know that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed by natural means. Nothing can *pop* into existance and give rise to everything we see today, by natural means. Yet, on the other hand, nothing in nature can be eternal. It can not self-exist. It is made of constituent parts which must pre-exist it. I only speak of natural means here. God exists outside of nature and science. Science, generally, applies to man. Not always. The Universe COULD NOT have come into existance via the big bang thought experiment. All that matter being spewed into space(Where did space come from?) would be spinning in the same direction, and because of the conservation of angular momentum, all resulting objects in space would have to spin in the same direction, yet some moons spin backwards, some spin one way but orbit another way, some galaxies spin backwards. The Universe cannot be eternal, because, in nature, nothing is self-existant.

      Man wants to fit God into a box where God must be subject to the rules man thinks he understands. So much of what was once science, is now known to be false. How then can science be the ultimate solution? God created nature and the general rules of science, but He can suspend them anytime He wants. Miracles.

      You believe that the truth, that God exists outside and independant of the universe, is a cheat of logic. What makes your logic the ultimate truth? You just admitted that your brain is fallible. If I had to define the universe, I would define it as Earth, our atmosphere, and outer space. Possibly the next and final layer, which is water. Yes, outside of outer space is water. Psalm 148:4 “Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.” Or you might call the universe, time, space, and matter. God created them and is not dependant on them. He is not dependant on time either. He acts outside of science and cannot be explained by science. Science is insufficient to explain God or His miracles. That does not meant that He does not exist. Why do the atheists always insist God follow a scientific pattern?! What if science is only for man? Why can’t God and angels and demons and miracles be transcendant of science?

      If nature/science could explain origins, then you have 4 huge issues. What came into being first? Energy? Matter? Time? Space? If energy did not exist, you couldn’t have matter. If matter did not exist, what would you do with all the energy? or, with no matter to slow down energy enough to become matter, how would you end up with matter? If time did not exist, when would you put energy and matter? If space did not exist, where would you put energy, matter, and time?

      “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23

      “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

      “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

      “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

      “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

      “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

  17. Philip Wraight permalink

    “I don’t know”, is an honest reply to the question “how did the universe begin”, however there are theories!, both scientific and none scientific.

    I personally would rather listen to the scientific “theories”, than the textual gobbledygook of religions, but that’s just me.
    It is very hard for me, no impossible for me to visualise an entity powerful enough to create a universe such as the one we inhabit!. At the same time it’s to much for my mind to imagine our universe coming into existence from nowt!!, but more plausible!!.

    • Mr. Wraight, please read the following without thinking I am trying to be insulting or having a bad tone. I do not mean that. There are no theories for how the universe began. There are conjectures. Theories, amongst other things, must rely on valid, known rules of science, and the conjectures out there do not contain these. Example: If they say that everything came from nothing, then you break the law that something can be created, instead of merely changed from one form to another. Also, what law exists to allow for the sudden creation of matter, space, time, or energy, from nothingness? If they claim that the universe was changed from eternal existing matter, then that too is non-scientific.

      But, with God, we can speak of special creation, which things lie OUTSIDE of man’s science, and is of the realm of God’s workings–His handiwork! If God created science, then He exists outside of it and can go far above it, not limited to its rules, as we are. We are finite and physical. He is infinite and a Spirit. From a scientific view, both God and self-creating universes are not valid. Therefore, either you must believe in a non-valid idea that defies science, or you must believe in a valid idea that transcends science.

      “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23

      “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

      “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

      “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

      “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19-20

      “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

      “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

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