Enlem ve Boylam 171 - The Existence of Laws in Universe

Hello dear listeners, in this episode of Enlem ve Boylam I will be reading a part from the book "12 Arguments for the Existence of God" by Caner Taslaman. The chapter will show that when compared to materialist-atheism, the paradigm of theism is much more successful in explaining why there are laws (that make science, and even our daily lives possible) instead of chaos.

Dinlemek için: Enlem ve Boylam 171 (Kasım 2022)


The Existence of Laws in Universe

Scientific endeavor aims to discover the laws of nature and thereby comprehend the universe, predict the future and provide comfort and safety to humanity. This endeavor, however, does not attempt to answer why the laws exist in the first place. Indeed, most scientists perform their studies without even realizing the possibility of vital philosophical questions like “Why do we have laws, instead of complete chaos?” or “Why are the laws of nature the same at every part of the universe?” Most scientists tacitly accept that there exist laws worth discovering, and embark upon their work with this presupposition in mind.

In this chapter, we will elucidate that when compared to materialist-atheism, the paradigm of theism is much more successful in explaining why there are laws (that make science, and even our daily lives possible) instead of chaos. Let us begin with the example of the scientific description of the atom. It tells us that the atom is made of particles like protons and neutrons, and these particles are made of smaller units called quarks. The scientific description explains the structure and physical-chemical behavior of atoms. Yet none of these answer the question “Why these laws are in action, instead of chaos?” The scientific description tells us that the protons are held together by the strong nuclear force against the electrostatic repulsion of their charges; but this is not an explanation of why this situation holds at every corner of the universe or why it exists at all. The distinction between the definition of a law and the explanation for the existence of the law is often overlooked, despite its critical importance. It should be noted that science describes the universe but does not “explain” it. In fact, to search for an explanation of the laws of the universe, we have to leave the realm of science and move to the field of philosophy. We can attempt to explain the laws of nature only by referring to an ontology encompassing the universe.

The history of thought presents theism and materialist-atheism as two main opposing views for the explanation of the universe and the laws therein. The most common approach put forward by proponents of materialist-atheism is that the laws of the universe are intrinsic to matter; together with matter these laws are eternal; and no further explanation is needed for the observed laws. The theist description, on the other hand, perceives the laws of the universe (and the universe itself) as creations of God, and as a manifestation of the Might and Will of God.

The first major question we must focus on here is “Why do we have laws instead of chaos?” From the perspective of logic, the universe could have existed just as well without laws; the presence of laws is not a logical necessity (notice the distinction between logical necessity and physical necessity). The existence of a universe with no laws at all is not logically inconsistent. Most scientists merely focus on the discovery of laws and leave aside the question of why they exist. Notwithstanding, some significant figures such as Einstein noticed the extraordinariness in the comprehensibility of the universe. Einstein stated that “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible”. According to him, the comprehensibility of the universe and the human mind’s comprehension is a manifestation of God.

If the universe were disordered and chaotic, we would never have come out of the confusion of childhood. If the universe were ordered but with a structure much more complicated than the perception capacity of human mind, it would still be incomprehensible. We understand the laws of the universe thanks both to their existence and comprehensibility.

If the apple you were eating suddenly turned into a rock, if the furniture on the floor started to fly around sporadically, if every morning we woke up in a different place, if a glass of cold water suddenly started to boil… in short, if we lived in a universe with no laws at all, neither rational reasoning, nor the language as a mediator of reasoning would have existed. If we gave a name to an object with a certain state (e.g. shape), but that state changed unpredictably, “naming” would become meaningless. Likewise, if the result of our actions changed each time we performed them, expressing the action verbally would become impossible. In such a chaotic world, induction and deduction and thus rational reasoning cannot exist.

As we have just seen, our understanding of the universe and science are only possible with the rational (in accordance with reason) structure of the universe, designed by the laws of nature. Since theism accepts God as the rational, conscious and mighty Creator of the universe, the rational structure of the universe can be readily understood. The only possible explanation from the materialist-atheist view is that matter has contained these properties for eternity. However, as agreed by materialist-atheists, the essence of matter has no relation to rationality; therefore, there is no reason to expect such an entity to have a rational structure. As a result, the rational structure of the universe is easily explained by theism, while materialist-atheism does not present any satisfying account.

The next point to be considered is the fact that the laws of nature are universal: they have the same structure at every point in the world, at every corner of the universe. The supposition that the laws of nature are the same at every point (space) in the universe, and for all time (in the past and in the future) is one of the basic elements of science. This property of the laws of nature allows us to make predictions about the past and the future using scientific discoveries. As expressed by Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne, if we find a large number of identical coins in an archeological dig, or if we find documents in a room with the same handwriting, we will search for an explanation of “common source”. Likewise, the ordered structure observed at every location, the same yesterday and today, deserves a common explanation. Just imagine more than a quadrillion times a quadrillion times a quadrillion quarks obeying the same laws; it is impossible to call this a coincidence and materialist-atheists have no apparent option other than calling this a “necessity”. However, calling this a “necessity” actually means not saying anything; it is more of a sweep under the carpet. What makes this necessary and why the necessity yields the same results at every location and time is not answered.

One of the central elements in theism is belief in the existence of only One God (Wahdaniyyah). This ontological belief presents a token for understanding the unity of laws. Since God is the sole Creator of all points in space and time, there is no surprise in observing exactly the same, omnipresent laws. Materialist-atheism, however, offers no reasonable explanation here. Polytheist beliefs, that we do not pay much attention in this book (as they do not pose a serious alternative to theism), do not provide an explanation, either; they attribute different parts of nature to different powers, ruling out the necessity for unique laws. On the contrary, in such beliefs, different laws should be expected in different corners and chaos would emerge from the conflict between different powers (gods). Therefore, no ontology other than theism properly explains the validity of the laws of nature at different places and times.

Another essential element established by systems (paradigm) of theist religions is of human being in a place where they can use their free will to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. This free will is also the reason why God does not force beliefs on human; this brings about the notion that the world is a place of trials. The responsibility of human for his actions is a crucial claim in these beliefs. The following verse from the Quran illustrates the point:

He who has created death as well as life, so that He might put you to a test [and thus show] which of you is best in conduct, and [make you realize that] He alone is almighty, truly forgiving. (Quran 67:2)

We can predict the outcomes of our actions only in an environment governed by laws, and we can be responsible for our actions only if we can predict their outcomes. Consider the following example: if someone pushes an innocent person off a cliff, we directly decide that he has done something terribly wrong. We would condemn this action humanly and a judge would find the actor guilty. Now imagine for a moment a world without natural laws: a world in which people pushed forward sometimes come back, or move upward; people falling from cliffs sporadically receive no harm but enjoyment and a feeling of goodness. In such a world, since the pusher cannot predict the outcome of his action, he cannot be responsible for it.

In fact, in a world with chaos instead of natural laws, neither life nor learning would be possible. As mentioned above, language is possible only in a place with laws. With no language, a state of mind suitable for trial cannot be reached. It is worth remembering that in theist religions, the speaking ability of human is strongly emphasized; the “responsible human” is placed on the earth with the ability to speak a language (living in a world with laws is just one of the conditions for speaking a language).

In brief, the theist claim that “we live in a world of trials and we are responsible for our actions” is rational only in a world governed by certain natural laws. This makes the existence of laws in the universe an expected phenomenon for theists. When this point is combined with a successful explanation of the rational structure of the universe by the existence of a rational, willful, conscious God, and a successful explanation of the universality of the laws of nature by the theist belief in only One God, we reach the conclusion that the existence of laws in the universe makes theism more preferable to all other options including materialist-atheism.

Source: 12 Arguments for the Existence of God, Caner Taslaman


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