uncreated thing

Those who hold that all things (the universe/multiverse/whatever) began to exist and were created (by an ultimate Creator or First/bottom Cause), and those who hold that all things (the universe/multiverse/whatever) ‘have always existed in some form/state’ agree on (at least) one point…

…namely that there is indeed an uncreated ‘thing’ which cannot be questioned, caused, created, ‘got behind’, etc.

The former call this uncreated ‘thing’ God – and the latter call it Nature.


  1. It seems to me that the word ‘created’ involves time. I cannot think of a use where the act of ‘creating’ does not involve a time before the object was created, a time after the object was created, and I suppose a time during which the object is being created. Therefore the word ‘created’ necessarily involves time.

    The problem in your argument, then, is that time is a property OF the universe (this is a facet of relativity) not a property beyond the universe, and so it is invalid to apply it to the universe as a whole. It does not make sense to claim that the universe began to exist, and it does not make sense to claim that the universe existed forever, when time is a facet internal to the universe.

  2. Simon,
    I don’t think it’s problematic – even if there is no time (or space or matter) outside of the time (space/matter) universe, we can still quite reasonably speak of the ‘beginning’ of the universe.

    The point was not that we have perfect language to describe a timeless and spaceless creation of time and space (if we can put it like that), but that both groups agree that there is a final un-caused, ‘end-of-the-causal-line’ entity which it makes no sense to ask ‘how did it get here’.

  3. The point was not that we have perfect language to describe a timeless and spaceless creation of time and space (if we can put it like that), but that both groups agree that there is a final un-caused, ‘end-of-the-causal-line’ entity which it makes no sense to ask ‘how did it get here’.

    Oh, I see! Yes, sorry, I’d agree with this. To me it makes no sense to ask where the universe came from, and I suppose to you it makes no sense to ask from whence God came? Is this what you meant?

  4. …however, I’d not hesitate to add that it’s infinitely more reasonable to ask where ‘all things’ came from than the Creator of all things came from ;)

  5. And just to be a pain in the proverbial. Do you really think that there is even remotely the amount of evidence there for a god compared to nature/the universe?

  6. the universe and god are very different kinds of things, and ‘evidence’ for either will also be very different kinds of things.

    personally, I think a better question is what is NOT evidence for God?

  7. Yes, there is. Because to be able to ask where the universe came from the question must be valid beyond the universe. But that doesn’t make sense; there is no beyond-the-universe.

    Besides, the same is true for fairy dust. It is not possible to validly ask where fairy dust came from either.

  8. Simon, when you say “there is no beyond-the-universe”, you’re wonderfully illustrating my original point; what theists claim for God, you’re claiming for the universe (or ‘nature’, more broadly speaking).

  9. Yes, I understand that. However this comment is nonsense. Care to back it up?

    …however, I’d not hesitate to add that it’s infinitely more reasonable to ask where ‘all things’ came from than the Creator of all things came from

  10. It really comes down to definitions:

    All monotheistic definitions of ‘God’ do very much include the notion of ultimacy – making it unreasonable to ask ‘what made God’, etc.

    In contrast, I know of no definition (certainly no empirically substantiated definition!!) of ‘the universe’ which includes such a notion of ultimacy – leaving it ever-reasonable to ask ‘what made the universe?’.

  11. Lol. I like it how you are prepared to use empiricism in such an uneven-handed fashion.

    By the very definition of ‘universe’ it has to be unreasonable to ask the question “what made the universe?“, because anything which did make the universe would have to be part of the universe by the very definition of the word!

  12. Simon,
    ‘Universe’ typically refers to the totality of physically existing reality (i.e. the ‘physical’ universe). This says nothing about the existence/non-existence or relationship/non-relationship to any ‘other-than-universe’ entities/non-entities.

    The ‘universe’ is either:
    1 illusory,
    2 eternal (uncaused),
    3 self-caused (the head-scratching notion of a part of the universe creating the universe is one example of this view),
    4 ‘other’-caused

  13. I should also say that of course just because a notion is ‘head-scratching’, doesn’t mean it is automatically invalid. Head scratching is often an example that one is properly thinking about something.

    The main thing I’d say about the notion of a part of the universe causing the universe is that it mistakes the original question and leaves it unanswered. The question “what caused the universe” is inquiring about the cause for the entire, complete, sum-of-all-‘parts’ universe. If one wants to assert that the universe is self-caused (or uncaused), they should just say that. (which takes me back to my original post – claiming something of the universe that is claimed of God)

  14. No. I think the universe is everything. And the question “What created the universe” is non-sensical unless we defile the word ‘universe’ or the word ‘created’. And this:

    …however, I’d not hesitate to add that it’s infinitely more reasonable to ask where ‘all things’ came from…

    is a non-sensical question. Anywho, I’ve made my point, I’ll leave it there.

  15. Again words can mean different things. “Universe” in particular.

    I don’t see any problem with questions like “what happened before the “big bang””. That is, one does not have to assume time started with the big bang.
    Cosmologists today are asking that question and they are posing some answers. Even advancing techniques to look at pre-bang times (or at least their effects on the current universe).

    Similarly, we can envisage a universe which began 13.7 billion years ago but was not caused. Our modern understanding has gone well past Aristotle in that respect. Things don’t need to have a cause. We are quite used to that concept now (even if it appears to violate “common sense” for some people). My understanding that current concepts of the origins of the universe do envisage an uncaused beginning.

    Similarly we can have beginnings and still be “eternal.” That also seems to be a concept that has come out of inflationary pictures of the big bang. That there was something before the big bang and maybe our current universe is just one component, over time and space, of an even larger cosmos. In fact, the dialectical unity of beginnings and eternal appeals to me philosophically. It seems to be the way reality is.

  16. Ken,
    First, whilst I’ve no problems conceptually with multiverse theory, it a) is speculative at best, and b) even if it was empirically validated (which it is anyting but), it wouldn’t even begin for a moment to dent a First Cause argument.

    Next, you say “Things don’t need to have a cause.” I suspect you have in mind (you didn’t say) sub-atomic particles ‘appearing’ and are still trying to say that this is evidence of ‘un-caused’ beginnings. The language of ‘appearing’ is sloppy, and the best way to say it would be that these particles come in/out of detectability (with current observational techniques/technology).

    And inflationary cosmology or any other models do not even begin to do away with Causal arguments. You’re merely pushing back (or attempting to) the First Cause back and back, further and further away from the Cause of our universe. The philosophical argument doesn’t depend on there being just one universe. The category “nature” includes any/all natural objects, phenomena, etc.

  17. No – just in general that events can occur without causes. Eg. Radioactive decay. We just cannot predict that or when a specific atom will decay. Only probabilities. There just seems to be no cause. Similarly, while we can in current models calculate the probability of there being “something” rather than “nothing” (so that a universe is more probable than no universe) this event doesn’t need a cause.

    My point about inflationary models is that they do open up the question of the time-limited beginning of our universe as being an event within a bigger (time and space) or eternal cosmology.

    Irrespective of single/multiple/packet universes, etc., modern cosmology does have to incorporate quantum mechanics and therefore includes indeterminism and the possibilities of “big bangs” without initiating causes.

  18. Ken, Aristotle’s arguments (and Aquinas’ later work based on them) to do with causality work in a categorical way. The sum/total of natural activity is summed up in the category of “nature”. It is this (“nature”) which theists think has (must have) a cause, and which naturalists think exists/functions/carries-on “on its own”, so to speak – which was the point of the original point.

  19. Sure – theists understandably go for cause and designs and purpose. “Naturalists” go for the sun – as far as I am concerned.

    But humanity, in its science, goes for the evidence and the best understanding of that evidence. This does not necessarily mean we restrict our thinking to ‘exists/functions/carries-on “on its own”’

    We can still have a beginning, an uncaused beginning. In fact that seems to be implicit in modern cosmology and our understanding of many other aspects of reality.

  20. Ken,
    naturalism (the well-known, non-controversially defined philosophical worldview) does indeed hold that nature “exists/functions/carries-on ‘on its own'”; if it did not it would be something other than naturalism.
    And I still don’t see how anything we see about our physical universe (or multiverse – whatever) even begins to counter a First Cause argument.

  21. It won’t – if you don’t want it to. That’s the advantage of “philosophical” arguments, isn’t it?
    But, then again, if we start without assumptions we have to have evidence for a “cause”, don’t we? As for a “first cause” – what the hell is that?

    By the way – your “naturalism” is obviously different to my “naturalism.” My “naturalism certainly doesn’t “hold that nature .. caries on” – hardly “non-controversial”, is it?

    Although I may be misunderstanding you. My point is my “naturalism;’ doesn’t in any way necessarily imply no beginnings.

  22. Indeed, there may be a misunderstanding or three.
    ‘Nature’ is taken to refer to the sum/total of ‘natual’ objects and phenomena – which ‘science’ investigates with natural methodology (methodology appropriate to the object of enquiry), producing natual accounts for ‘Nature’.

    The theistic ‘First Cause’ argument holds that ‘Nature’ is contingent (caused). This is the argument, however complete or incomplete our natural accounts of nature happen to be. Pointing to this or that natural phenomena (quantum behaviour, cosmological theories, etc.) is not interacting with what the argument is even saying. Nature (however it functions) is contingent.

    The ‘naturalistic’ view holds that ‘Nature’ is not contingent (i.e. self-caused).

    My point in the OP was merely to point out that theists and naturalists both claim that there is only one un-caused thing, but that they call it by different names: God (theists) and Nature (naturalists).

  23. Simon wrote: “Oh, I see! Yes, sorry, I’d agree with this. To me it makes no sense to ask where the universe came from, and I suppose to you it makes no sense to ask from whence God came? Is this what you meant?”

    A formal logical proof for an intelligent Creator is found in the blog: bloganders.blogspot.com .

    To all Christians I reccomend http://www.netzarim.co.il which contains research about Ribi Yehoshua (the Messiah) from Nazareth.

    Anders Branderud

  24. This is the trouble with dogmatic philosophical definitions applied to reality.

    1: There are plenty of uncaused things. For example – what causes a specific radioactive atom to decay (and there are certainly plenty of those). Our current best understanding is that it is uncaused. Now, that understanding is extremely successful – you rely on it for practically all the technology you use. So you really have to have a good reason to assert otherwise.
    So I think you are wrong to make the attribution to “naturalists” that you do.

    2: Your theist/natural differentiation really comes back to the old differentiation that occurred with the ancient Greek scientists/philosophers, and was recaptured during the “scientific revolution” of the 16th and 17th centuries. That differentiation marked a success for scientific endeavor (which you cal “naturalistic”). I don’t see any successes for the ancient “idealistic” approaches.

  25. Anders Branderud,
    I’ll kindly ask you to engage, rather than merely link. I nearly deleted your comment as spam.

    1. This seems like an ‘uncausality-of-the-gaps’ argument: We haven’t found a scientific explanation cause for ‘this’, so it must be god uncaused! Perhaps we should just keep looking, aye? Or are you advocating a view that is a science-stopper cause-finding stopper?

    2. What is so profound about saying that natural approaches aided natural science?

  26. 1: Not at all. I think you are assuming that although we haven’t found a cause for a specific phenomenon if we keep looking we will (might?). No, it’s not like that, at all. Part of our understanding is that there is no specific cause for the decay of a specific atom, for example. That indeterminism comes out of our observation of reality and our over-riding theoretical understanding of it. Rather than this being a science stopper it is a science advancer (as should be obvious from the incredible appreciations resulting from this theoretical understanding)..
    Of course the indeterminism at the micro-level does not negate causers at the macro level. Philosophically we can see causes as actually resulting from, based on, indeterminism.

    2: I agree that (depending on meanings applied to words) “natural approaches” aided science. In fact real science was impossible without looking for evidence in reality instead of imposing ideas on reality. That was a point I tried to draw out in my recent book review. My objections are really not to the philosophical concepts – as I understand them. Just the the concepts others seem to impose on words like “materialism” and “naturalism.”

  27. Ken,
    How would we know if it’s “there is no specific cause” or if it’s “we don’t know what the cause is”??

    At any rate, gaps (real or perceived) in natural causality still don’t even begin to impinge upon First Cause argumentation (btw, ‘first’ not merely in a chronological sense).

  28. We “know” in the sense that the theory (which is firmly based in reality and has immense explanatory power) predicts that to be so. It is definitely not a matter of not knowing, or not being able to speculate on, the cause – it’s a matter of theory predicting no cause.

    Of course all our real knowledge is provisional – even when it works so well. So a subsequent theory (especially one that goes down to much smaller dimensions) may well return to a more deterministic model as this extreme micro level. What we have to accept, though, is that “common sense” logic and arguments just are not relevant in this sort of world. WE can’t say things have a cause just because we have observed that in some cases in the macro (medium sized, really) world.
    “First cause argumentation”[/i] – I guess that’s a theological term. Not at all relevant to science. Not at all relevant to reality. It’s the sort of argument one uses when one doesn’t want to face up to reality.

    And why bother? If we must persist in a belief not derived from scientific or logical considerations surely its best to keep away from science and logic. Why not justify the belief using one of your [i]”other ways of knowing?”[/i] Like revelation. And leave it at that.

  29. We seem to be speaking past eachother a bit. You have made a claim that “there are plenty of uncaused things”. I’m wanting to say (at least) two things:

    1) that claim (there are plenty of uncaused things) is one that I find unclear and unconvincing (we don’t know the specific cause of gravitation either, do we? if we get right down to the nitty gritty?)
    2) the First Cause argument doesn’t work in such a way that a ‘gap’ in natural causality would dent/hinder/etc. it.

    By the way, couldn’t a sure-and-objective ‘hole’ in natural causation be wide open to the claim of direct divine agency (as opposed to the (less ‘direct’/’intervening’) kind of divine causality implied in First Cause agents (wherein God is the underlying Cause underneath/behind the totality of Nature as it functions)?

  30. Re your last point – that is certainly the approach of some theologians. I think they get called the “premise keepers.” They see quantum indeterminism of providing an avenue for their god to intervene in reality without violating “natural laws” and order. They see the later as “god-given” and therefore the usually theology of divine intervention as blasphemous.

    While they presumably feel this gives them a satisfying mechanism to me it’s just an opportunist attempt to find an avenue through science. But presumably it is an avenue that provides for a first cause – some would say a first chance or first accident.

  31. Ken,
    I’m not sure how to respond – you’ve not provided argument against these views you call “opportunist”? And again, even this theological/philosophical ‘use of’ (or theological/philosophical comments informed by) current science –even IF ‘opportunist’– is not a make/break issue for a First Cause argument.

  32. Hello all
    I’m a Atheist/Deist(Depending on your definition of a God)
    I do agree that the cosmological argument must have an end (unmovable cause) however I don’t see any evidence or reasoning to support the idea that this beginning(or first) cause should be considered nature or that of an intelligence.

    My point being that as M theory theorises multiple universes, speculating on what may have created our membrane universe and that of the entire bulk based on our unique reasoning and laws of physics is futile.
    Believing that the first cause is nature or an intelligence is just an assumption, as its based on absolutely no evidence.

    I have no problem accepting the possibility of a God, if by God you mean a first unmovable cause that has an intelligence behind it.(as its just as likely as nature)
    Of course making out that this possible intelligent first cause is Thor, Zeus, Allah, Ra or any other God man has dreamt up in his brief history is absurd to me as its a further and even bigger assumption.

  33. Hi Durzal,
    The point I’d make concerning M-Theory is that it would be a logical fallacy, it seems, to suggest that a Natural entity (i.e. ‘Branes’ according to super-string theory) provides an exhaustive/final/total explanation for/of Nature. In other words, nature doesn’t explain nature. Unless, of course, one wants to claim that nature is self-explanatory?

    And as far as the scope of this post is concerned, I’m not interested for the moment in what name should be used to refer to the First Cause. It’s merely that a First Cause –at the very least a Desitic one– is plainly logical, sensible and I’d even say logically necessary. And the later questions of what is this thing ‘like’ (personal, impersonal, revealed, un-revealed, partially revealed, knowable, un-knowable, etc., etc.) should not prevent people from taking seriously the notion in and of itself.

  34. I do believe that a higher dimensional state of nature(not our universes) is just as viable an explanation for a final/exhaustive explanation for our universe (and others)than that of a proposed supreme intelligence.
    Can you provide any evidence or reasoning to suggest that this isn’t the case?

    Its not logical or sensible to suggest that a first cause has to be an intelligence(or not) based on incomplete information and understanding of a theorised multi-dimensional space that doesn’t necessarily adhere to our universes rather narrow laws of physics(or nature).

    Of course, anyone is quite free to take seriously the notion that this first cause is the personal God of their chosen religion but its just as sensible to see it as Zeus, Thor, or any other God that man has come up with.

  35. Durzal,
    The category of ‘Nature’ is the Totality all existing natural aspects/phenomena/states; so again, ‘natural’ things can be part of an explanation of nature, but not of an explanation for nature.

    Btw, your IP addy says you are in Amsterdam? It’s 3am there! :)

  36. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nature

    Nature as a category is what happens within our universe(brane), M theory theorises many universes(branes) so the Nature of our universe in no way adheres or matters when looking at other universes or even to any space outside our universe.

    I’m in England, its still late thought.

  37. When referring to the ‘Nature’ of our universe, the word ‘nature’ means its ‘state of being’. However, as a category (i.e. how it is being used in our discussions and discussions like it), ‘Nature’ refers to (as above) “the Totality of natural processes/entities – including Brane(s), multiverses, strings, superstrings, and any other currently-undetected natural phenomena…”

    More importantly, the latter sense is the only one relevant to a First Cause discussion

  38. btw, this needs to be my last comment this week – which is turning out to be one of the busiest of the year for me! will follow up any subsequent comment next week :)

  39. When referring to the ‘Nature’ of our universe the word nature can mean its “state of being” or it can mean “the sum total of the forces at work throughout the universe” (that’s No6 from dictionary.com)

    Call it what you will, the point is that the nature(or laws of physics) of our universe in no way can be used to speculate on phenomenon that operate outside our universe.

    Ok np, I like your website I’ve put it in my favourites:) I’ll check up on it next week sometime.

  40. sorry for long hiatus,
    (still have assigments to finish after –short– flu and getting extension)
    Seems to me that unless someone wants to tag Branes with a tag other than ‘natural’, then my original point stands. (actually it stands however Branes are tagged!)

  41. You can tag branes under any heading you like (nature if you wish) but categories we define based on our universes laws of physic’s don’t apply when looking at phenomena that operate outside our universe and its laws of physics.

    Nobody understands the rules (or nature) that govern the multiverse, so speculation about whether its first cause is natural or intelligent are pointless as its absurd to think the first cause of the multiverse would fit into any category set out by us earthlings, stuck on our 3D branes universe.

  42. indeed, our physical knowledge of things we have no physical perception of will always be speculation. (and my understanding is that this is precisely where were at with talk of ‘multi-verses’) But given the (at least physical/cosmological) uncertainty here, the category of ‘nature’ is still properly basic and immediate. And my point still makes quite basic sense.

  43. Rubbish, you can’t agree that what lays outside our universe and happens in the multi-verse are just speculation because of our lack of perception and then say in the next sentence that we can still accurately categorised these things.

  44. Au contraire – I did not say we can accurately categorise “these things” which we do not (yet) perceive (in the ‘multiverse’, but out of our universe…). What I did say, was that going off what we do know about a) our universe and b) the theoretical notions of a multiverse, the category of ‘nature’ still makes very simple and basic sense.

  45. Sorry, but what we know about a) our universe, cannot be used for speculation about anything outside our universe.

    Your belief that the first cause could not be a natural one are based on rather narrow views of what nature is, based on our universes nature.

    How does categorising a first cause that operates outside of our perception and understanding make sense to you.

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