There are things that are useless, like a wet blanket on a cold night. There are things that are wrong, like the three volume set of books about how Richard Dawkins was grown on a unicorn farm. Even though this three volume set is wrong, it could still be useful. For instance you could burn it to keep warm since your blanket got wet and it’s cold outside. It’s possible for an idea to be wrong but still useful as well. For instance if I were a track and field athlete I might be able to shave a second or two off of my 100 meter dash if I was convinced that One Prong Ricky, that’s Richard Dawkins’ Unicorn name, was chasing me down the track. It’s a wrong idea but it has practical benefit. So it’s possible for an idea to be wrong but useful. However, in this case Atheism is not only wrong it’s useless, sort of like that wet blanket with Richard Dawkins quotes printed on it.
There is surmounting evidence that implies a self-existing universe is in contradiction to the laws of physics. One may not be able to discover by experimentation that the universe is self-existent, however, is it possible that there is a mathematical model which would exclude a self-existing universe? If so, it can be reasonably assured that a self-existing universe is not correct.
If the universe is self-existing and man currently exists as a result of a continuous process,1 the process must have begun in the infinite past. Functionally this is equivalent to a process that has no beginning. The universe cannot be currently self-existing, as the Humanist Manifesto claims if it happened to be contingent in the past. In the same way, the universe cannot be contingent now, if it once was self-existing. This can be illustrated with these If statements.
1. If matter is self-existing, then it is logical that it has always been self-existing.
2. If matter has always been self-existing, it is logical that matter had no beginning.
3. If matter had no beginning, then it is infinitely old.
4. If matter is eternal, then the universe is eternal in past and future.
This is worth reiterating. If the universe is self-existing, it must be infinitely old. By definition, a self-existing universe can have no beginning before which nothing existed. The subtle but foundational claim of Secular Humanism is that the universe is eternal. The most important question that can be asked along these lines is this. Could the universe be infinitely old? Until the last century, many thought so. However, scientific ideas on the subject have changed in the last 100 years.
The Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle coined the phrase, “the big bang” in the 1940s as he and other mathematicians were closing in on conclusive evidence that the universe could not be eternal. Working backward through a time-space model will eventually reveal a singularity, before which there is an incredible nothingness. As Fred Hoyle explains, going backward through time, “the universe was shrunk down to nothing at all.”2
Although theorists, and don’t forget science fiction authors, often toy with the idea of the infinite, in terms of time and space, it is little more than that: an idea. David Hilbert, one of the greatest mathematical minds of the last century said, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought… The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.”3
It was not until the last century that that idea of an infinite universe was finally put to rest. The singularity in big bang cosmology killed the infinite universe theory in its various forms such as the oscillating model4 and the steady state model.5 Physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler said it this way, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity.”6 Big bang cosmology shows that there was a point where nothing existed, and then there was a point where something began to exist. This shatters the self-existing nature of the secular humanist universe. Therefore, so-called self-existence does not hold up in modern cosmological, or mathematical models.
1 The phrase “continuous process” appeared in the first Humanist Manifesto. It has been removed from the later iterations of the Humanist Manifesto, but it continues to be a foundational concept in the support of Secular Humanism and atheism in general.
2 Hoyle, Fred. Astronomy and Cosmology: A Modern Course. W H Freeman & Co (1975): 658
3 David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Banecerraf and Hilary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 139, 141.
4 The oscillating model proposes that the universe expands and contracts for eternity past. This model has been ubiquitously traded in for the big bang model.
5 The steady state model is a cosmological theory that proposes new matter comes into existence in the voids where current matter recedes. It is unverified and considered untenable. The big bang has usurped this model.
6 Barrow, John D., and Frank J. Tipler. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Oxford [Oxfordshire] ; New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. 442.