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From Discovering Intelligent Design: The First Cause


Excerpted from Discovering Intelligent Design, by Gary Kemper, Hallie Kemper, and Casey Luskin; Chapter 5, "The Empire Strikes Back":

A number of theories have been proposed to explain a materialistic origin of the universe.


Some materialists have claimed that the universe created itself. As Stephen Hawking argues, "Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." But for anything to create itself, it would have to exist before it was created. Most people would agree this is logically absurd. Oxford mathematician John Lennox observes that Hawking confuses physical laws -- which merely describe how the universe works -- with ultimate explanations:

The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics... Similarly, the laws of physics could never have actually built the universe. Some agency must have been involved. What options are left for materialists? Since they are unwilling to accept intelligent design as a first cause, materialists hold that ultimately the universe came into being by chance for no reason at all.

Betting on Chance

Oxford University scientist and author Peter Atkins parodies the book of Genesis with a summary of the materialistic view:

In the beginning there was nothing. Absolute void, not merely empty space. There was no space; nor was there time, for this was before time. The universe was without form and void. By chance there was a fluctuation...
Atkins goes on to argue that this random, theoretical, primordial fluctuation spawned a chain of events that caused everything else -- the chance universe.

While Atkins is correct that before the universe there was nothing, not even space or time, his argument does not account for the very beginning of everything. He says, "By chance there was a fluctuation." But if absolutely nothing existed, some questions arise.

  • What was it that fluctuated?
  • Why was there an environment that allowed for such "fluctuations"?
  • What caused that non-existent something to fluctuate?

For many years, materialists have been attempting to answer such questions without much success. Is "chance" an appropriate final explanation in science?

When a person says that something happened "by chance," there may seem to be an implication that chance actually caused the event. But "chance" is not the true cause.

For example, we often think of a coin toss before a football game as an example of "chance." When a referee flips the coin, there are a number of factors that will cause it to come down heads or tails, such as the weighting of the coin, the placement of the coin in his hand, the amount of applied force, wind, and gravity.

Because many of these factors are difficult to predict or control beforehand, we attribute the outcome to "chance." But "chance" is not really the cause at all. That term is an expression of probability and is used simply to predict and describe events. It is not a causal agent.

Yet Atkins attributes the origin of the universe to chance. In this context, chance is not an explanation. It is the absence of an explanation.

To buy or learn more about Discovering Intelligent Design, the first comprehensive curriculum to present the scientific evidence for intelligent design for both young people and adults, visit our website at DiscoveringID.org!