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Existence of God: Design in the Universe

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God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

INTRODUCTION

The Law of Cause and Effect states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. The mass of a paper clip is not going to provide sufficient gravitational pull to cause a tidal wave. There must be an adequate cause for the tidal wave, like a massive, offshore, underwater earthquake (“Tsunamis,” 2000, p. 1064). Leaning against a mountain will certainly not cause it to topple over. Jumping up and down on the ground will not cause an earthquake. If a chair is not placed in an empty room, the room will remain chairless. If matter was not made and placed in the Universe, we would not exist. There must be an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause for every material effect. Perhaps the Law of Cause and Effect seems intuitive to most, but common sense is foreign to many when God is brought into the discussion.

CAUSALITY AND HISTORY

The Law of Cause and Effect, or Law/Principle of Causality, has been investigated and recognized for millennia. In Phaedo, written by Plato in 360 B.C., an “investigation of nature” is spoken of concerning causality, wherein “the causes of everything, why each thing comes into being and why it perishes and why it exists” are discussed (Plato, 1966, 1:96a-b, emp. added). In 350 B.C., Aristotle contributed more to the causality discussion by stipulating that causes can be “spoken of in four senses”: material, formal, efficient, and final (Aristotle, 2009, 1[3]). Moving forward two millennia in no way changed the established fact pressed by the Law of Cause and Effect. In 1781, the renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote concerning the Principle of Causality in his Critique of Pure Reason that “everything that happens presupposes a previous condition, which it follows with absolute certainty, in conformity with a rule.... All changes take place according to the law of the connection of Cause and Effect” (Kant, 1781). Fast forwarding another 350 years, our understanding of the world still did not cause the law to be discredited. In 1934, W.T. Stace, professor of philosophy at Princeton University, in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy, wrote:

Every student of logic knows that this is the ultimate canon of the sciences, the foundation of them all. If we did not believe the truth of causation, namely, everything which has a beginning has a cause, and that in the same circumstances the same things invariably happen, all the sciences would at once crumble to dust. In every scientific investigation this truth is assumed (1934, p. 6, emp. added).

The truth of causality is so substantiated that it is taken for granted in scientific investigation.

A few decades later, the Law of Cause and Effect still had not been repealed. In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Richard Taylor wrote, “Nevertheless, it is hardly disputable that the idea of causation is not only indispensable in the common affairs of life but in all applied sciences as well” (1967, p. 57, emp. added). Even today, when scientific exploration has brought us to unprecedented heights of knowledge, the age old Law of Causality cannot be denied. Today’s dictionaries define “causality” as:

  • “the principle that nothing can happen without being caused” (“Causality,” 2009).
  • “the principle that everything has a cause” (“Causality,” 2008).

Indeed, the Law of Cause and Effect is not, and cannot rationally be, denied—except when necessary in order to prop up a deficient worldview. Its ramifications have been argued for years, but after the dust settles, the Law of Cause and Effect still stands unscathed, having weathered the trials thrust upon it for thousands of years.

THE LAW OF CAUSALITY—A PROBLEM FOR ATHEISTS

Creationists have absolutely no problem with the truth articulated by this God-ordained law from antiquity. The Bible, in essence, articulated the principle millennia ago when in Hebrews 3:4 it says that “every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.” A house must have a cause—namely, a builder. It will not build itself. However, evolutionists are left in a quandary when trying to explain how the effect of the infinitely complex Universe could have come about without a cause. Three decades ago, Robert Jastrow, founder and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, wrote:

The Universe, and everything that has happened in it since the beginning of time, are a grand effect without a known cause. An effect without a known cause? That is not the world of science; it is a world of witchcraft, of wild events and the whims of demons, a medieval world that science has tried to banish. As scientists, what are we to make of this picture? I do not know. I would only like to present the evidence for the statement that the Universe, and man himself, originated in a moment when time began (1977, p. 21).

When Jastrow says that there is no “known cause” for everything in the Universe, he is referring to the fact that there is no known natural cause. If atheism were true, there must be a natural explanation of what caused the Universe. Scientists and philosophers recognize that there must be a cause that would be sufficient to bring about matter and the Universe—and yet no natural cause is known. The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms says that “causality,” in physics, is “the principle that an event cannot precede its cause” (2003, p. 346). However, the atheist must concede that in order for his/her claim to be valid, the effect of the Universe not only preceded its cause, but actually came about without it! Such a viewpoint is hardly in keeping with science. Scientifically speaking, according to the Law of Cause and Effect, there had to be a Cause for the Universe. The only book on the planet which contains characteristics that prove its production to be above human capability is the Bible (see Butt, 2007). The God of the Bible is its author (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and in the very first verse of the inspired material He gave to humans, He articulated with authority and clarity that He is the Cause Who brought about the Universe and all that is in it.

UNCAUSED CAUSE?

Often the atheist or skeptic, attempting to distract and side-step the truth of this law without responding to it, retorts, “But if everything had to have a beginning, why does the same concept not apply to God?” Notice that this statement is based on a misunderstanding of what the Law of Cause and Effect claims concerning the Universe. The law states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. The God of the Bible is a spiritual Being (John 4:24) and therefore is not governed by physical law.

Recall also what Professor W.T. Stace wrote in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy concerning causality. “[E]verything which has a beginning has a cause” (1934, p. 6, emp. added). As mentioned above, scientists and philosophers recognize that, logically, there must be an initial cause of the Universe. [Those who attempt to argue the eternality of the Universe are in direct contradiction with the Second Law of Thermodynamics (see Miller, 2007).] However, God, not being a physical, finite being, but an eternal, spiritual being (by definition), would not be subject to the condition of requiring a beginning. Therefore, the law does not apply to Him. Psalm 90:2 says concerning God, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (emp. added). The Bible describes God as a Being who has always been and always will be—“from everlasting to everlasting.” He, therefore, had no beginning. Hebrews 3:4 again states, “every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God,” indicating that God is not constrained by the Law of Cause and Effect as are houses, but rather, is the Chief Builder—the Uncaused Causer—the Being who initially set all effects into motion. The point stands. The Law of Cause and Effect supports the creation model, not the atheistic evolutionary model.

REFERENCES

Aristotle (2009), Metaphysics, trans. W.D. Ross, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/metaphysics.1.i.html.

Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Behold%20the%20Word%20of%20God.pdf.

“Causality” (2009), Collins English Dictionary—Complete & Unabridged, 10th ed. (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers), http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Causality?x=35&y=25.

“Causality” (2008), Concise Oxford English Dictionary, (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press), http://www.wordreference.com/definition/causality.

Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).

Kant, Immanuel (1781), The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. J.M.D. Meiklejohn (London: Henry G. Bohn), 1878 edition, http://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/critique-of-pure-reason.txt.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms (2003), pub. M.D. Licker (New York: McGraw-Hill), sixth edition.

Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27[4]:25-31, April, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3293.

Plato (1966), Plato in Twelve Volumes, trans. Harold North Fowler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DPhaedo%3Asection%3D96a.

Stace, W.T. (1934), A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London: Macmillan and Co.).

Taylor, Richard (1967), “Causation,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Philosophical Library).

“Tsunamis” (2000), The Oxford Companion to the Earth, ed. Paul L. Hancock & Brian J. Skinner (Oxford University Press).




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