Is This Universe All There Is?

Some people have no imagination.

Through my RSS reader, I landed on a post about who has the burden of proof in matters of worldviews. A former atheist-turned-Christian recalls that, in the past, he would claim that the burden of proof fell on theists because there was no need for him to defend a position that postulates the absence of something (God) that appears to be absent. Now, as a Christian, he maintains that, since there are lots of unanswered questions about the appearance of design of the universe, the mystery surrounding the origin of life, consciousness, and other thorny subjects, the burden of proof falls not only on theists, but also on atheists.

As to be expected, the post generated lots of comments. I chimed in, validating the point expressed by the original poster; we all have the same data at our disposal, yet we don’t know everything in matters of science or history of the universe. Because there’s a lot that we don’t know, this leaves the door open to different interpretations of the facts, which lead to different narratives, or worldviews. The burden of proof, my point was, is that anyone that advances a theory about origins, scientific data, and historical records has the burden of proof to defend his or her position; this is called apologetics.

That seemed straightforward to me. Not much to argue about.

Yet, one of the commenters started going on a tangent by pointing out that I had brought up  the idea that there is a scientific consensus about the universe having a beginning, on which point he strongly disagreed; he mentioned that there is a difference between a time zero, on which no physicist can speculate, and using terms like “beginning,” or “moment of creation.”

When I read that, I chuckled. I thought I was a stickler who focused on the minutiae of language, but this guy goes beyond me; here I am stating a self-evident facts about worldviews and apologetics, and one person takes one word — one word — about the origin of the universe and focuses on that (I wish he were that punctilious about chirality or abiogenesis).

Aside from the fact that the terminology I used (scientific consensus and beginning of the universe) is to be found in most college textbooks and most everywhere online, even on scientific sites, this chap assumed that talking about beginning of the universe is absurd because the beginning of everything that exists (the universe, indeed) means creation ex nihilo, from nothing, which is absurd.

Now, this was definitely a deviation from the original topic about apologetics and burden of proof, but it raises a fascinating point: does the beginning of our universe mean creation ex nihilo? And if so, would that be absurd? You would be astonished to find out what physicists would say on the subject.

From my perspective, the beginning of the universe does not mean origin from nothing. John 1:1-3 is pretty explicit about who was behind the creation of the universe.

But that’s because you are a theist, you might say. True, but even if you are an atheist, why limit yourself to the notion that this universe is all there is? Because Carl Sagan said so? Because Lucretius called it a universe in his De Rerum Natura? Or because the Greeks before him did so? Just because we call it universe (roughly “everything around us”), and because we cannot see beyond it, that does not mean that this universe is all there is.

As a Christian, I can picture our universe as just a subset of the real universe. And why not? Why would an eternal Being only make this universe? A universe with boring, inhabited sphere-looking planets rotating about nuclear furnaces in galaxies so far apart it boggles the mind?

Even atheists have come up with their own speculations about a multiverse and brane cosmology. Some guy is even questioning the big bang to begin with, as in the above MIT Technology Review article.

So, I’m not sure why this guy would get so hung up on the concept that the beginning of our visible universe would necessarily and categorically mean an absurd creation ex nihilo.

Some people, I guess, have no imagination.

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