Fields begins a hand of poker when he is asked, "Is this one of those
games of chance?" Dealing them in, he smiles wryly; murmuring to himself,
"Not the way I play it."
My Little Chickadee
be forced to believe only one conclusion -- that everything in the universe
happened by chance -- would violate the very objectivity of science itself...
in scientific honesty that I endorse the presentation of alternative theories
for the origin of the universe, life and man in the science classroom.
It would be an error to overlook the possibility that the universe was
planned rather than happened by chance."
Why is this important?
Chance is the focal
point of atheistic cosmology and evolution. Chance is invoked to explain
how life and the universe could have come about if not by the purposeful
act of a creator-God. Chance is used in such a way as to convey the idea
of by accident or having no purpose. Does life
really exist without ultimate purpose? Could the universe have simply happened
Are there causeless happenings?
The word chance is somewhat
ambiguous and often misused in a way that implies it to mean some kind of
random, causeless happening. From a strictly scientific perspective, everything
has a cause. There is no such thing as an effect without a cause.
Even granting what appears to be the operation of chance in quantum mechanics,
cause and effect is not a concept that is quickly or easily abandoned.
In the W.C. Fields example,
chance is just a belief in the eye of the unwary beholder. The other player
mistakenly thinks he has a possibility or even an opportunity to win. But
Field's character is a card-shark. He doesn't suffer any delusion that winning
is just being a fateful recipient of causeless happenings. Nothing is left
unplanned or uncontrolled. Nothing is left to chance.
Today, you can be removed
from a blackjack table in Las Vegas for counting cards. Why? Because the
house likes to win, and it wins when people believe in chance. The greater
the number of cards, the more difficult it becomes to remember which ones
have and have not yet been played.
Most houses now play
with four to six concurrent decks of cards. Bets by average players are
then much less likely to be based on a knowledge of the remaining cards,
and more likely to be placed on anxious desires to be a fateful recipient
of causeless happenings.
To better understand
chance, we'll try applying various definitions of the word to the origin
of the universe.
Chance is defined in
the dictionary as:
1. "The way things
turn out." This fails to explain how or why anything happens. This is
just an after-the-fact statement of the current state of affairs. It is
not very enlightening to say the universe came into being just because it
turned out that way.
2. "A fortuitous
happening." Describing an event as fortuitous is to judge it beneficial
or desirable in some way. This does not explain either how or why the universe
exists any more than the first definition. This just says that, assuming
we want the universe to exist, it does because we lucked out.
3. "A possibility
or probability." These synonyms for chance are illustrated by saying
that there is a chance that a player will pick an ace off the top of a deck
of cards. Chance, defined as possibility, has to do with the ability
of an event to occur. For
example, it is 100% possible that an ace could be drawn out of the deck
(assuming a standard deck).
has to do with the likelihood of an event to occur. Because there are fifty-two
cards in that deck, four of them aces, but only one card on top, there is
a 4-in-52 or 1-in-13 probability of an ace being on top.
Chance, defined as possibility,
would say that the universe came into being because it was possible. Yet
possibility is neither a guarantee nor a proof of actuality. (Each of the
fifty-two cards could be the one on top, but not all are on top, only one
is.) Neither does probability guarantee something will happen. (That player
will probably not find an ace on top, but he or she still could.)
Understand that both
possibility and probability are calculated based on having a certain amount
of knowledge (the number of cards in a deck, which ones have been played,
etc...). Without this basic knowledge, possibilities and probabilities cannot
be determined. Because science is confined to studying this particular universe,
this particular card in the deck, there is no way to be certain of what
those other cards in the deck might be, or even to be certain if there are
any others. Therefore, only one definition of chance remains which could
be used to describe the origin of life and the universe:
4. "The apparent
absence of cause or design." This defines chance as it is used most
often. Example: if a spinning wheel stopped on a number that we had bet
on, we might be tempted to comment, "It stopped there by chance". We didn't
design the wheel or the circumstances that caused it to stop where it did,
but there it stopped. Why?
It stopped where it
did because of simple physics. The combination of kinetic energy, radial
speed and friction is not too difficult a problem to be solved, but it is
virtually impossible to calculate without instrumentation. In other words,
it may have stopped without apparent cause, but its stopping was
caused all the same.
The same explanation
holds true for dice games, lotteries, or any other so-called games of chance.
To say that any of these events involve chance is just applying a simplistic
label to a complex situation that one's personal intellect fails to grasp.
This is not a return to determinism,
but instead an acknowledgment that we sometimes have the same overconfidence
in our tentative understanding of the universe as did deterministic thinkers.
Now imagine we learned
all of the physics and energies involved with that spinning wheel. This
would not take into account unseen devices under the roulette table that
might be secretly operated by the dealer's foot. We place our bet, the wheel
stops, and our perfect calculations fail to predict the winning number.
Several paychecks later, we might mistakenly conclude that because our perfect
grasp of physics could not predict the winning numbers, those numbers must
be random products of chaos. But again, just because we didn't find their
cause doesn't mean there wasn't one. We were simply unaware of all
the influences on that wheel.
The omniscience of chance.
To declare that an event
had no cause assumes more than one might think. For me to make such a claim,
for example, I would have to recognize absolutely all causes and know that
none of them had produced the given event. But unless I possess all knowledge,
I cannot say with certainty that I know all causes. Therefore, if I am
not aware of every cause, then I must concede that any seemingly uncaused
event may have been generated by causes as yet unknown to me. This is
both logical and the general consensus of most scientists. For no scientist,
to my knowledge, is as yet ready to throw out his or her belief in cause
and effect. The lone challenger to cause and effect is quantum physics.
Quantum physics: Cause and effect still reigns
In quantum physics,
subatomic particles are believed to occasionally pop into and out of existence.
There is currently no cause conclusively proven to be associated with such
phenomena. More recently, an energy field theory is being used to describe
the same phenomena. What are the philosophical implications of this?
Atheism, since the advent
of Newton's laws, has traditionally rejected belief in God on the basis
that everything in the universe is explainable without him. In other words,
God is viewed as unnecessary because everything is explainable merely by
cause and effect.
Now many atheists' writings
look to quantum theory as a godless (i.e. causeless) explanation for the
origin of the universe. The universe does not need a creator God to cause
it because, they reason, quantum theory might allow for a particle to have
suddenly appeared which ended up being the universe. Overlooking an obvious
problem with the quantum theory for now, herein lies a logical dilemma.
If atheism claims to
reject belief in God:
A) based upon the
acceptance of cause-and-effect (via Newton's laws), ...and...
B) based upon the
rejection of cause-and-effect (via quantum theory), ...then...
this suggests that atheism
might just be a rebellion in search of a cause. It cannot have it both ways.
To be consistent, atheists may continue to reject God for either A or B
listed above, but not both. (More on this in Where
did the universe come from? - part two.)
As for theism, one
always recognizes God to be the true first-cause whether any intermediate
cause is readily visible or not. If a creator God exists, he is separate
from that which he created (space, time, matter...) and is thus
not subject to the cause and effect principle of this created universe (i.e.,
was himself uncaused).
terms of origins, the last definition of chance says that the universe came
into being by an unrecognized cause. This is the most reasonable definition
to explain the origin of the universe from a secular standpoint. Indeed,
it's the only scientific application of the word left. Therefore, it's needlessly
ambiguous and misleading for anyone, including atheists, to say that the
universe happened by chance. It is more precise to state that the universe
Perhaps scientists refrain
from stating it that way because it begs the question, "Caused by... what?".
The definition of science, as you recall, is limited to the testable; the
predictable as confirmed by repetition of experiment. Thus, if the cause
of the observable universe lies outside of itself, then, by definition,
the cause also lies outside of science.
At this point, science
has reached a dead-end and it is up to other branches of learning to continue
the quest for the origin of the universe. For some, it results in appending
the question from "Caused by what?" to "Caused by who?" The Bible claims
that who is God. As far as how he might have caused things to be is the
subject of our next chapter: "What is meant by creation?"
What is meant by "creation"?
Cosmological Argument for God
Where did the universe come from?