Saturday, June 29, 2013
Einstein once famously asked this question. Although he was not a "believer" in the theistic sense, Einstein was fond of formulating questions about the universe in guise of what would god do if the universe had been created by an intelligence. It was merely a ploy used to explore some of the deepest questions of physics.
The question does raise an interesting set of additional questions. If god is timeless, at least before the creation of the universe, then it must have been the case that all of god's decisions, thoughts and knowledge, existed simultaneously in a timeless state. So how is it then possible for god to have willed the universe into existence? How could god, exercising his free will, go from a point of indecision - to decision - on whether or not to create a universe, as well as what kind of universe to create? If god is timeless he cannot have had such a transition, because that would require time.
If god's decision to create the universe existed eternally - in that there was never a "time" (metaphysical or otherwise) when he did not posses the will to create the universe, then god never could have indeed made that decision, and thus god never would have had the "choice" in creating the universe. The universe we live in at least would have been inevitable with no possibility that god wouldn't have created it, because any deliberation on god's part to create a universe or not, and what kind of universe to create, would necessarily require time.
Some theists like Richard Swinburne and William Lane Craig have explored ideas of "metaphysical time" or "finite time" that god exists in prior to the creation of actual time so that god can make these kinds of decisions and have time to "will" the universe into existence. The problem is obvious with these proposals: they are pure theological speculations devised only to resolve god's timeless paradoxes and have no scientific basis whatsoever. They even include their own logical conundrums (see my critique of Craig's idea of "finite time" here). A skeptical atheist is in no way obligated to take any of these speculations seriously except as a debating point.
So a timeless god could not, it seems, have had a choice in creating the universe. The decision to do so would have to have existed eternally and logically simultaneous with all of god's other knowledge and decisions. The only way out of this, appears to be in seeking refuge in some sort of hypothetical time dimension that god exists in prior to actual time, but that exists merely as a ploy of theological sophistry.
All of this, I think, among other things, renders the cosmological argument from contingency impotent, since a timeless god could never have decided to not create our universe, and our universe would not technically be contingent. In other words, if A exists necessarily, and if A exists, B necessarily exists, then B exists necessarily too, because there is no possible way that B could not exist.