Did God create the laws of physics?
by Tom Gilson
At Secular News Daily, Andrew Zak Williams puzzles over the origin of the laws of physics. He acknowledges that science has no answers, at least so far, but he has these objections to finding the explanation in God:
The universe comprises four primary dimensions – three of time and one of space. Since theologians tend to define God as existing outside space and time, it’s consistent with Christian theology for God to play the role of super turtle. Even so, this still amounts to wheeling out God as the answer when difficult questions come along. You know the kind of thing: “There are some things about the universe I don’t understand. Therefore God exists!” And in the words of the atheistic mantra oft-repeated in school debating classes, it is illogical to try to explain away a difficult scientific question (the origin of the laws of science) by invoking an even more difficult one (the origin of God).
But believers have a response: Because of God’s divine properties, he must be outside the laws of science and so they don’t need to explain in scientific terms where he came from. However this does rather smack of believers defining their god in whatever way answers difficult questions, a particularly easy task if you’re constrained by the imagination rather than by evidence.
I’ll give him credit for stating the problem somewhat thoughtfully (though see below). Granted, God is not easy to explain. In fact theologians don’t even try, and with good reason. To explain some entity w is to provide an account for w in terms of some x, y, …; with x, y, … being prior to w in some logical or temporal sense. But in the case of a necessary being, there can be no prior x, y, ….. God is by definition the being who precedes all else, logically, temporally, and in any other conceivable way. To speak of explaining God is to speak a contradiction, just as much as it would be for me to speak of my being my own grandfather’s (genetic) grandfather. It’s nonsense.
Williams’s challenge of explaining “where he [God] came from” is the same error in particularly egregious form. It is equivalent to, “Where did that which came from nothing beyond his own being, come from (beyond his own being)?”
This is not just a matter of God being “outside the laws of science, and so [we] don’t need to explain in scientific terms where he came from.” Logic alone, apart from and prior to any science, is sufficient to show that the question is meaningless—just as I doubt any reader will think an empirical study is necessary to show I’m not my grandfather’s grandfather. The only meaningful way, and the correct way, to view God’s explanation is that God is the only explanation of God’s existence; or, that God is the necessary being who needs no explanation outside himself.
That still leaves three questions for us theists to answer. First, as Williams wondered, isn’t our conception of God ad hoc, a conveniently adaptable invention, able to morph into any form science requires him to take? That charge might have some force had it happened that way historically. But theologians have defined God (not tended to, but actually defined) as being outside space and time since at least Augustine. The same answer has worked for some 1600 years now.There’s just no truth to the ad hoc charge.
Second, why should we settle on God as our explanation for the laws of physics, when it’s possible that science will come up with a better answer? I have two responses. First, though, let’s take the word “science” out of it; for science is not an answer to questions, it is a means of discovering answers, specifically answers within and concerning nature. So the options are not God or science, they are God or nature…
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