Naturalists, atheists, and skeptics are taking a not-so-new approach to dismissing the scientific evidence for God. Recently, they have been asserting that any claim that God created the universe is out of bounds since such a claim is an appeal to magic. An example is this question that appeared on my Facebook page.
Q: How would you respond to naturalists and atheists who continually say that the universe cannot be created because that would be magic?
A: First, I would respond by pointing out to the naturalists and atheists that they are engaging in circular reasoning. They begin with the presuppositions that miracles and magic are impossible and therefore conclude that a God who performs miracles or magic cannot exist. Often, it helps to illustrate their appeal to circular reasoning with a neutral example, one that has nothing to do with God. Consider the following:
“I am always right.”
“Because I said it, it must be right.”
“Therefore, I am always right.”
Second, I would explain that if the universe has a beginning, then the cause of that beginning must lie outside of the universe. If the cause is outside the universe, then by definition the cause is some kind of miracle or “magic.”
Third, I would show the voluminous observational, experimental, and theoretical evidence that establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that the universe has a beginning. Astronomers have measurements showing that the universe is expanding and has been expanding at all look-back times (because of the finite and constant velocity of light, the farther away an astronomer looks, the farther back in time he is observing). As astronomers look back in time, they note that the galaxies get progressively closer together and the temperature of the universe measures progressively hotter in a manner that can be explained only if the universe arose from an infinitesimally small volume and an infinitely high temperature. The relative abundances of the elements making up the periodic table, again, can be explained only if the universe had a beginning about 13.8 billion years ago. The most conclusive proof that the universe has a beginning comes from the space-time theorems. Based on two unassailable assumptions (namely, that the universe contains mass and the equations of general relativity reliably describe the movements of massive bodies in the universe), the space-time theorems prove that the universe has a beginning, a beginning that even includes the origin of space and time itself.
The foregoing paragraph outlines just some of the evidence that eliminates all reasonable doubt that the universe has a beginning. Those desiring a more complete account will find it in two of my books.1
A decade ago, the space-time theorems were generalized to apply to all possible inflationary hot big bang models that could conceivably support some kind of physical life. As Alexander Vilenkin, one of the authors of the most powerful of the space-time theorems, wrote,
With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.2
The “problem” is that the space-time theorems imply that a God beyond space and time must have performed a miracle in bringing about the existence of the universe. Evidence establishing the beginning of the universe that includes the beginning of space and time establishes that scientists have proven the greatest possible miracle that science could ever hope to uncover. The discovery of such a miracle means that science can no longer operate as if miracles never happen. That God performed such an outstanding miracle 13.8 billion years ago opens up the possibility that He may have performed other miracles. Thus, scientists must be open-minded to the possibility that the causes they are investigating in their scientific research could be natural or supernatural.
- Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God, 3rd ed. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001); Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008).
- Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (New York: Hill & Wang, 2006): 176.