So does the universe has a cause for its existence, and if so is the cause a personal one? It seems like a reasonable question, and one which would be open to the tools of philosophical and empirical investigation. For example, if the universe appears to be finite in existence (it does) and to be finely tuned to a spectacular degree (it does) you might think it reasonable to consider that it has an agent cause just like many other things we know of that are finite in origin and finely-tuned to a spectacular degree.
Way 1: Demand a larger selection example of universes
But not everyone thinks so. In the discussion thread to my article “Do you really believe the universe’s origin was uncaused, or were you just speculating?” Ray Ingles commented (in response to Crude):
“Exactly how much evidence do we have regarding how universes come about? (Actually, how much evidence do we have regarding if universes ‘come about’?) When you have very little evidence, then ‘consistent with the evidence’ is about the only bar there is to clear.”
As best I can surmise, Ray is reasoning like this: we can only draw reasonable conclusions about whether entities were produced by intelligent agents if we have several examples of the type of entity. Alas, this is clearly false. I may find my very first thingamabob in the woods and immediately conclude that it was produced by an intelligent agent, even if I’ve never found a thingamabob before and even if I don’t even have a clue what it is.
How do I do this? Simple. The thingamabob hasn’t always been around. That much is clear. So it follows that there must be some sort of cause for its existence. The question is what kind? Moreover, the thingamabob evinces the hallmarks of intelligence. It has several parts equisitely finely tuned to work as a whole for a specified purpose. This is not to preclude the possibility of error. Certainly it is possible to misjudge the origins of the thingamabob by attributing agency where none has been operative. But that isn’t relevant to the central point which is simply this: you can reasonably infer intelligence as the cause of the thingamabob even if you’ve never encountered one before.
The universe also hasn’t always been around. So it follows that just as a thingamabob that hasn’t always been around requires a cause for its existence, so one would conclude that a universe which hasn’t always been around requires a cause for its existence. And just as a thingamabob finely tuned to a spectacular degree invokes the reasonable conclusion that design is the cause, so for the universe.
Consequently, Ray’s principle is completely erroneous. The demand that we have an experience of multiple universes before we can reasonably draw conclusions about the causal origins of one universe is nothing more than a bit of arbitrary agnostic dogmatism.
Way 2: Declare that intuition sucks
But Ray’s not done. In the comment thread to “If crime scene investigators reasoned like atheists” he stresses that, in his words, human intuition “sucks”:
“As I’ve pointed out many times in the past, when it comes to areas humans can’t test and have no experience in, human intuition and speculation sucks. So many, many things have been confidently asserted to have (supernatural) ‘agent causes’, but have been found later not to require ‘agent causes’.”
More bogus reasoning here. Ray says we have no experience to judge matters. Really? The question is whether things which begin to exist have causes that explain why they begin to exist. The answer is of course and that answer is based on the overwhelming testimony of human experience.
(This is where things get sadly humorous. I have heard many atheists and agnostics reason the way Ray is reasoning. Indeed, they’ve been playing this card since David Hume. But then the perplexing phenomena of quantum wave fluctuations were discovered a few decades ago, a poorly understood event in which virtual particles seem to leap into existence within a background vacuum uncaused. And you know what happened? Agnostics and atheists were immediately suggesting that this might explain the origin of the universe! Apparently we don’ t understand causation with sufficient clarity to consider that the cosmos might have an intelligent cause for its existence. But we do understand quantum fluctuations with sufficient clarity to consider that the cosmos might have no cause.)
Anyway, back to Ray who thinks human intuition “sucks”. That’s a problem. You see, Ray’s argument depends on intuitions about the nature of induction. So does the suckiness of intuition generally not bleed into his argument given that the latter depends on the former?
Way 3: Demand an account for how something was created to know whether it was created by a mind
Now let’s end by considering the final installment in Ray’s triumvirate of bogusness. He writes:
Many times people like to say science answers ‘how’ questions, not ‘why’ questions. Well, tell you what – you tell me how the universe was created, and then I’ll tell you whether or not I think it had an agent cause.
This is the best one yet! Claim that you can’t reasonably infer whether the cause of something is intelligent until you know how it was created. Think of what life would be like if we followed this principle. I don’t know how my smartphone and computer were made so I don’t know if a mind made them. I don’t even know how my leather belt was made (how does one actually go from cow to leather belt?) let alone my cotton shirt and pants, my glasses or my ring. So I guess I need to remain agnostic as to whether any of these things was made by intelligent causes.
Hey, if you’re going to offer bogus arguments for agnosticism on the origin of the universe why not go out with a (big) bang?