Christians believe that their god created the universe. Ask them who or what created god and they will say that god always existed. Of course, precious few, if any, have considered the logical quagmire which results from this hypothesis. Now I must point out up front that the following argument has one very serious weakness; one must be willing and able to think on one’s own in order to understand it.
Albert Einstein is famous for many things, among them the so-called “thought experiment.” The process is simple enough, one merely imagines himself in a certain situation and then, using logic and whatever scientific knowledge is available, imagines how some event would unfold. This process ultimately led Einstein to the Special and General Theories of Relativity (after a hell of a lot of hard mathematics). It can be a very powerful technique in helping us to visualize and discover how the world really works. Let’s try a simple thought experiment on this problem of the creation of the universe.
Try to imagine that you are god and the universe has not yet been created. There is only you as some sort of disembodied consciousness. Nothing else exists or has ever existed. There is only you and nothingness, and your “mind” is a blank for nothing exists to think about. Already we have a problem. According to our best science, mind is what a functioning brain does. No one has ever detected a mind or a thought where there was not an alive and functioning brain, or biological “wetware.”
Nevermind. You are god and somehow you have an incorporeal (without body) mind. As we said, you aren’t thinking about anything yet because nothing exists to think about. Perhaps your mind is like a painting of nothing, whatever that might be.
“God can do anything” is not a valid argument. Not even a god could create a finite infinity or a square circle…or, most importantly, have a thought when nothing exists to think about. Anyhow, you suddenly decide to create a universe. But how could this be? How could you even picture a universe since no universe has ever existed and nothing exists for it to be anything like… or unlike. How would you even get an idea, any idea? An idea is a mental picture or symbolic representation of something. But there is no something yet in existence to work with to create a picture and no symbolic language to represent with. All thoughts are representations of something that already exists – or variations on a theme of something that already exists.
Having an idea when nothing exists to think about must be a bit like trying to look something up in the dictionary when you don’t know any words. Have you ever noticed that the dictionary is totally circular (much like many Christian arguments)? Every word in it is defined in terms of other words that are in it. You have to know a few words before you can use it. Similarly, in order to have an idea, something must exist for you to have an idea about, to provide the materials of a concept.
So, god suddenly decides to create a universe, but what does “create” mean to him? How can it have any meaning when there are no other words or concepts in existence to illustrate, define, or otherwise represent “create?” And what does universe mean? This certainly appears to be the ultimate in pulling oneself up into the air by one’s own bootstraps.
This Christian theory of a disembodied, ethereal “mind” (made of…nothing?) somehow creating the universe is a non-starter. No mind, even a god’s mind, can think without something to think about. As long as nothing exists, there can be no thought (since thought absolutely requires an object) and hence no creation by thought. In the words of my slow cousin, “It don’t work.” And, make no mistake, “god can do anything” is not a valid argument. Not even a god could create a finite infinity or a square circle…or, most importantly, have a thought when nothing exists to think about.
I believe this thought experiment pretty much proves that the universe existed, in some form, before any thought existed, and no god could create anything without thought.