God's Existence and Buddhist philosophy: An Interesting Debate
By Avijit Roy
The interesting discussion was initiated when M RS, one of our prominent members of Mukto-Mona sent an email to the forum on Nov 8, 2004, and asked for some feed back on his forwarded article:
A PRACTICAL MAN'S PROOF OF GOD:
The existence of God is a subject that has occupied schools of philosophy and theology for thousands of years. Most of the time, these debates have revolved around all kinds of assumptions and definitions. Philosophers will spend a lifetime arguing about the meaning of a word and never really get there. One is reminded of the college student who was asked how his philosophy class was going. He replied that they had not done much because when the teacher tried to call roll, the kids kept arguing about whether they existed or not. ... ( Read more...)
In response, I
sent the following message to the forum:
Dear M RS:
The author of the article you sent made some seriously flawed assertions from scientific point of view. I'll point out some of them. But before that I suggest- you please read last part of my "Alo-Hate choliyachey Adharer Jatree" (in Bangla) carefully. Most of the points author made I did discuss in that series article of mine. Here is the link:
I have discussed the interesting topic in a more detailed manner in the printed version. The book is expected to be published next year at "ekushe-boi mela" (February Book Fair). I am not sure if there are any other Bangla books at present in the market on this topic. If I find any, I will let you know. There are some books by Dr. Ali Asghar, Dr. M Akhtaruzzaman, but those are written from academic point of view ignoring the essential philosophical discussion. Anyways, let me point out just two erroneous assertions of the author briefly. The rest you will find in the above link of my article.
The author states in his article:
...If we do exist, there are only two possible explanations as to how our existence came to be. Either we had a beginning or we did not have a beginning. The Bible says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1 :1). The atheist has always maintained that there was no beginning. . ...
The assumption is wrong. Atheism, by definition, is the absence of belief in the existence of God(s); it has nothing to do with beginning of universe, unlike the author's above assertion. If we look at latest findings of astrophysics, the beginning of the universe can be explained through the theological significance of Inflationary Cosmology (which has been accepted by many renowned physicists at this time) and it is as follows: it shows- how the universe might have formed out of nothing, in complete chaos (maximum entropy), and have order formed spontaneously without violating any known laws of physics. That is to say- it provides an economical explanation about the origin of the universe without creation or design hypothesis. A scientist does not investigate the origin of universe to prove "atheism" or "theism", rather he/she abides by whatever conclusions the experimental data/observations lead him to. Moreover, a Biblical God (as the author insisted quoting Biblical verse) is not required by any contemporary scientific laws/data. The author, however, while quoting a selective verse from Bible, entirely ignored that such Biblical claims as "the earth was created in just six days", and then "the creation of sun and stars", are not supported by any scientific facts or evidences [ In genesis, (1:3-5, 14-19) God creates light and separates light from darkness, and day from night, on the first day. Yet he didn't make the light producing objects such as the sun and the stars until the fourth day (1:14-19). For more details:
Let me clarify more precisely. That universe had a beginning through a Hot Big Bang has been supported by current cosmological data, however, such "beginning" does not require any "God". We have no miraculous "beginning" to time or the universe that requires "God's intervention". It will take some space to discuss what scientists mean by "beginning" since no absolute point in time exists in the equations of physics of Big bang. If you want to proceed, I will, however, discuss later. For now be assured that it is quite different from those religious myths and paranormal hypothesis.
The author also states in his article:
... If we know the creation has a beginning, we are faced with another logical question was the creation caused or was it not caused? The Bible states, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Not only does the Bible maintain that there was a cause -a creation-but it also tells us what the cause was. It was God. The atheist tells us that "matter is self-existing and not created." If matter had a beginning and yet was uncaused, one must logically maintain that something would have had to come into existence out of nothing. From empty space with no force, no matter, no energy, and no intelligence, matter would have to become existent. Even if this could happen by some strange new process unknown to science today, there is a logical problem. . . ...
The statement contains several flaws. First, the author here is using the famous Kaläm Cosmological Argument, which is normally stated as the following form:
(1) Whatever begins has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(4) The cause is God.
The first premise had been refuted long time ago on the basis of the non-causal nature of quantum phenomena. "Whatever begins has a cause" is not true for Quantum fluctuation. Physical bodies begin to exist all the time without cause. In the radioactive decay of an atomic nucleus, an alpha, beta, or gamma particle begins to exist spontaneously, without a cause. So, Not everything that begins has to have a cause. The uncertainty principle allows energy (which is equivalent to mass by E=mc^2) to appear spontaneously as it disappears in a short-enough time. It is a proven fact. These evidences are enough to refute author's claim.
Since the universe at the beginning of the Big Bang was as tiny as a subatomic particle (at singularity point), it could have been created with an uncaused quantum fluctuation that led to inflation which afterwards proceeded through the appearance of matter and structure. Edward Tryon was first to publish this idea in major journals in 1973. With appearance of the inflationary cosmology in 80s, several physicists developed models in which inflation is triggered by an initial quantum event. Here are some: David Atkatz and Heinz Pagels, "Origin of universe as Quantum Tunneling effect" Physical review D25 (1982): 2065-73; S.W. Hawking and I.G.Moss "Supercolled Phase Transitions in the very early Universe", Physics letters B110(1982):35-38; Alexander Vilenkin, "Creation of Universe from Nothing" Physics letters 117B (1982) 25-28, Andre Linde, "Quantum creation of the inflamatory Universe," Letter Al Nuovo Cimento 39(1984): 401-405 etc. I am not asking you to read these technical papers right now. However, they illustrate the point that serious attentions to the possibility of an uncaused origin of the universe have been paid by quite a big chunk of reputable physicists with results being published in major scientific journals. If the concept of arising universe from out of nothing, be such non-sense ,or unscientific, as alleged by the author of your article, or if they violated any laws of physics, these papers would not have been published in scientific journals.
Final objection to such argument is that it finally concludes- a “God” exists; however, if it is so, same "God" must have an origin (cause) using the rationale of the premise of such argument. This leads to an infinite regress of causes ("Gods") unacceptable to the theist, so most believers take an exception to their "God" hypothesis, saying that a "God" doesn’t need a cause. Problem is theists cannot explain why this exception rule cannot be applied to the universe itself. If a God “just is,” why can’t the universe “just be?”, as pointed out by Philosopher B. Russel and D. Hume quite long time ago.
I am a bit short of time at this moment. I will respond to other portions of the argument later if needed. In the mean time, in addition to my Bangla article, you might also want to look at a particular chapter (Chapter 6: The Uncreated Universe) from Vic Stenger's book named, "Has Science Found God? : The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe" in which he discussed the issue somewhat more elaborately. Below is the link:
Should you desire to read some more articles of Stenger, please check out MM Authors' Index. Those are really illuminating.
Tue Nov 9, 2004
My above response stirred my old friend Vir Gupta, who has been showing his utmost devotion in Buddhist philosophy for long in many of the responses to MM. He responded back with some interesting arguments...
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