Can a law create?

The stage was set. The time was perfect. The Law of Internal Combustion appeared at just the right moment in history to create the first gasoline-fueled automobile. Internal combustion caused automobiles to come into existence.

Karl Friedrich Benz might disagree with that silly account of his invention.  In 1885 after hours of sweat and study, Benz invented a self -powered vehicle using internal combustion. In January of 1886 Benz applied for the patent to his “Motorwagen.” Benz – not internal combustion –  held the patent, because Benz was the creator of the “Motorwagen.”  Yes, Benz’s invention utilized principles of physics that exist in our world, but who would seriously attribute the existence of his automobile to the physical mechanisms and laws themselves?

Yet that is just what the “smartest man on earth” claims about the existence of the world.

Stephen Hawking was Professor of Mathematics for 30 years at Cambridge University. He wrote that “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”  

Can a law create?

Our culture is also asking this question: “Does God or science explain the universe?”  While scientists in their various fields make amazing contributions to human knowledge by observing and categorizing phenomenon, and do indeed explain the way the universe operates, scientists have yet to explain why anything is here at all.

As Oxford mathematician and philosopher of science John Lennox points out, it is a false alternative to say that either God or the Laws of Physics have created our world.  That is like comparing apples to oranges ~ or agency to mechanism. We wouldn’t say that either Karl Benz or internal combustion created the automobile.

Why do I bring this up?  Because I keep seeing this idea in various places, and it isn’t going away just because it doesn’t make sense.

In an online article called “Will Science Someday Rule Out the Possibility of God?” we read that 

Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science. 

We need to ask ourselves if providing explanations of the “workings” of the universe is the same as providing an explanation of the existence of the universe.

The same article reports that Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says 

…there’s good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.

The article goes on to say that cosmologists can model what happened microseconds after the Big Bang until now, but that it is “the split-second before that remains murky.”  That’s like saying we can observe how matter and energy behave since they came into existence, but we still don’t know how matter and energy came into existence. Carroll, in fact, states that the role of physics is to describe the universe. Physics has yet to account for the cause of the universe.

Hawking redefines “nothing” as a quantum vacuum with energy in order to account for existence.  But as Shakespeare said,  “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  If we start with something, even if we call it nothing, it is still something – and its existence is still unexplained.

Berkeley astrophysicist Alex Filippenko said

The Big Bang could’ve occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universes.

As John Lennox would reply, “Laws don’t create anything.”

~ Betsy McPeak


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