I was recently conversing with a creationist about that tired old “done-to-death” creation/evolution thing, and he actually put the Bible aside for a moment, and took a shot at arguing that supernatural creation could be scientifically proven. Here’s the case that he made (if anyone has a rebuttal for this, let me know). He started by saying that this “proof” is dependent upon three premises:
1. The universe is finite. (the universe, of course, means the total of all matter and energy that exists.)
2. The first law of thermodynamics holds, i.e. , within a closed system matter (and its equivalent, energy) cannot be created nor destroyed.
3. The second law of thermodynamics holds, i.e., the total energy within a closed system is continuously decreasing in its level of availability. In other words, entropy is increasing within any closed system.
He noted that the first premise is generally accepted within the scientific community. In fact a finite universe is implied by the widely accepted “big bang” theory (stating that all matter and energy existed within a very small volume of space, smaller than a molecule of water, and since that time has been expanding, resulting in the universe as we know it). He also noted that the first and second laws of thermodynamics are considered to be the most widely accepted generalizations known to science.
So here is the “proof”: since the universe is finite, it is, itself, a closed system. Thus the first and second laws of thermodynamics apply to it. Either the universe always existed, or else it came into being (either instantaneously or over a period of time), or it is still coming into being. The idea of the universe always existing contradicts the third premise…for an infinite amount of time would have passed, plenty of time for entropy to have increased to the extent of inert uniformity. Thus the universe did not always exist, but had a beginning, or is still coming into being.
If the universe (total of all matter and energy) had a beginning, then its matter and energy couldn’t have come into being within itself. For this would contradict premise 2. The same applies if the universe is still coming into being. So his conclusion is that since the universe had a beginning, and since its matter and energy could not have arisen within itself, then it must have come into it from outside itself…..from outside nature itself. That which is outside nature is, of course, the supernatural. Thus the production of matter and energy within the universe had a supernatural source.
Anyone wanna toss in their $.02 on this?
That the cosmos appears to have a ‘beginning’ does not necessarily equate to that beginning having any special correlation to specific mythology of (a) god(s) and their various dietary, behavioural, and wardrobe instructions for humanity.
In short: Things we don’t know, or questions don’t currently have answers to, do not automatically act as a neon-sign pointing toward Jehovah.
Well, in his defense, he DID put aside the Bible momentarily in his attempt to scientifically prove the supernatural, as I mentioned in the OP. And in our discussion, he did concede that his conclusion in no way implies proof of the characteristics of the supernatural source, whether personal or impersonal, and if personal, whether benign or malignant…..or whether that source is Jehovah, Allah, Brahma, Mickey Mouse, or the FSM for that matter. So at least he is a bit more honest, in relation to most of his theist counterparts.
BTW, Jefe, you said that his argument was based on confirmation bias…..is there anything specific that comes to mind which disproves (or at least casts doubt upon) this OP argument, that my friend chose to ignore when making his case?
It is amazing how often still the old creationist attempts at ‘arguments from incredulity’ and ‘arguments from ignorance’ come into play.
It is just so old and so simple. One of the first principles of reason is to understand that because we do not know or understand something completely or maybe even at all, does not make it divine. Science history will tell everyone with an open eye that this has been so for centuries.
And Josh, creationists have for a long time misrepresented the laws of thermodynamics. Here is a link that explains some of what they try to do to discredit evolutionary theory, for example.
Another thing creationists ignore, or do not understand is that the big bang was not the ‘creation’ of the universe. It was not even an explosion. It was an expansion of things (elements) that were already present. The 1st law of thermodynamics is not violated. The universe may be infinite. Just because it has been expanding since the BB, people take that to mean it had an origin. Not necessarily.
If Tavish was around he could REALLY expand upon this one.
Well, putting aside ideas such as, a no boundary universe, the multiverse, the big bounce, as well as the details of thermodynamics as applied here, the easiest argument would be where did the ID come from.
Intelligent design, creation science, the unmoved mover etc., are all misunderstandings and/or propaganda. Just like irreducible complexity and specified information. They are things made up, or misinterpreted/misrepresented…. to confirm biases.
Was it “Paidion” (seems to be a nice guy whose avatar suggests he looks like Santa Claus) at Christian Forums who gave you this logical proof? It is nearly word for word the argument he gave me.
I’m going to play devil’s advocate with some of the posters here just to firm things up a bit.
Jefe and McCreason have suggested that the characterization of the 2 laws of thermodynamics is poor. I don’t think it is. These 2 laws have been very reasonably represented in the premises of the proof as written here.
McCreason has suggested that an infinite universe is consistent with the laws of thermodynamics but it is not consistent with the second law: if the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time, then it ought to have reached its highest state of entropy, which it hasn’t. (I have an argument to this, but I am curious to hear what others come up with that is better than mine)
McCreason has also suggested that the argument from ignorance is operative in the proof, but in fact, it is the defense suggested here which employs the argument from ignorance: “Just because we haven’t found a natural explanation for the apparent paradox involving the laws of thermodynamics doesnt’ mean a natural explanation doesn’t exist.”
GAD has suggested that even if we accept the proof, we must explain the origin of the supernatural source. Agreed, though the question of its origins casts no doubt on the fact of its existence, if the proof is accepted, so the argument should stick to the logic of the proof I would think.
I have no formal training in philosophy or logic, but it seems to me that the logic here is sound. This problem has caused me to ponder the relationship between logic and science. Clearly, science employs logic, but equally clear is that it is much more than that.
I would like someone here to explain the problem with the logic. What is not coherent?
‘Jefe and McCreason have suggested that the characterization of the 2 laws of thermodynamics is poor. I don’t think it is. These 2 laws have been very reasonably represented in the premises of the proof as written here.’
Clarification here. Creationists misrepresent the laws of thermodynamics. Please read.
And more thermodynamics explanation here.
This is a very old argument actually. An old ‘creationist claim’
I found the “Institute for Creation Research” website in the course of responding to a poster in a different forum. He quoted (without citing, and probably without understanding) this article.
When I Googled the site to see what others had to say, I found UC Berkeley’s description of the ICR. Check out the links off that page, too.
For many years now, at least back to the 1980’s, the ICR has put out propaganda about the laws of thermodynamics to confuse people about a possible supernatural creation of the cosmos.
It has been refutted for many decades now.
An excellent book that devouts a chapter to this exact scenario is ‘God, the Devil and Darwin’ by Professor Niall Shanks.
I learned much about thermodynamics from this splendid book.
All the cognitive acrobatics regarding the 2nd Law are pointless to anyone with any intellectual discipline at all anyway.
Let’s say for the sake of argument they prove the 2nd Law is flawed. What have they actually proven?
... that the 2nd Law is flawed.
And perhaps so is our understanding of thermodynamics.
What they most certainly haven’t done is to come up with anything the slightest bit substantial regarding validation for the notion that a god exists.
They seem to think that’s always the default answer if you actually don’t have a real one, so they often waste massive amounts of time, money and energy in these kinds of truly pointless efforts that anyone who’s not too religiostupidified can see is just so much barking at the moon.
Cut to the chase. Unless of course you’re into dancing with clowns.
Of course Byron. They have no science or theory. Their game is only to question ours.
God of the gaps, is the only game they CAN play.
If the scientific explanation of the natural is proven wrong or flawed, it opens the door for the supernatural, so they think.
But an actual explanation for what the supernatural is, is impossible, and everybody knows that.
I’ve checked out the links above, which address creationsim versus evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life. Those links do not address the origin of the matter of our universe. They do not indicate that the laws of thermodynamics as characterized in the proof as it is written here are poor. To my knowledge, nobody has ever demonstrated phenomena that break the laws of thermodynamics. Ever.
Please tell me:
(i) what in the proof (and not in the defence posted here) is an argument from ignorance
(ii) what is incoherent about the logic
(iii) where the premises have gone wrong.
Here is one concerning entropy.