April 25, 2019 | 60° F

Speaker discusses the beginning of the universe

Photo by Aaron Savage |

William Craig, a research professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology, discusses his beliefs regarding religion and his perception of the universe at “The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe,” a lecture and question-and-answer session held at the Busch Campus Center yesterday evening. AARON SAVAGE

The universe exists, and in order for that to be true, a being must have created it, said William Craig, a research professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology. 

Craig discussed the origins of the universe yesterday evening at “The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe,” lecture and question-and-answer session held by the Rutgers chapter of Ratio Christi, Latin for “The reason of Christ,” a nonprofit organization aimed at fostering Christian faith through intellectual investigation. 

Jordan Karausky, president of the Rutgers Chapter of Ratio Christi, said Craig had been called the “Michael Jordan of apologetics.” Craig’s past work inspired the chapter to invite him to speak.

At the Busch Campus Center, Craig discussed why the universe had to have a beginning and why that beginning must have been instigated by an extemporal being. 

The universe could not have simply sprung into existence, he said. 

“For the universe to come into being from nothing is absurd,” he said. “Something cannot come into being from nothing. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, [you] have the magician [and a] hat.”

Several basic premises could be used to explain how the universe came to exist, Craig said. The first of these premises was that if the universe started existing, something had to have caused it.

Al Ghazali, a Muslim theologian, said he initially proposed many of these premises. The most controversial is that the universe began to exist a finite amount of time ago. 

An infinite number of events could have happened if the universe did not have a start time for its existence, he said. Determining that the number of past events had to be finite proves that the universe did have a beginning.

To illustrate this point, Craig mentioned a paradox theory proposed by David Hilbert, an influential German mathematician from the early 20th century. The paradox theory, called Hilbert’s paradox of the Grand Hotel, states that a hotel with an infinite number of occupied rooms could not hold any more people.

Craig said Hilbert’s theory illustrates why there must be a finite number of events. 

But because there are infinite rooms, any person can be moved to another room. This would free up a room for a new guest, Craig said. An infinite number of new guests can be added through similar means in this hotel.

This example explains the nature of infinity, he said. The absurdity of the explanation shows how the number of past events in the universe has to be finite. 

“Modern set theory shows that if you adopt certain axioms and rules, then you can talk about actually infinite collections in an infinite way without contradicting yourselves,” he said. 

Scientific proof also exists that the universe had a beginning, he said. Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity explained that the universe was either expanding or condensing. Later proofs of the theory showed that the universe was expanding. 

Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer during the early 20th century, then noticed that distant galaxies were redder than nearer ones, Craig said. This redshift proves that they are further apart than they were before.

These notions are discussed in the Big Bang theory, Craig said. The theory states the galaxies are not moving relative to space and that the fabric of space itself is expanding. 

Craig said tracing this expansion back in time eventually gets to a point where there is no distance between galaxies. This point is the boundary of space and time.

This boundary is also the beginning of the universe, he said.

“As if this wasn’t enough, there is actually a second scientific confirmation that the universe began,” Craig said.

The second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy in a system increases, proves that the universe had to begin, he said. 

Eventually this entropy will increase to its maximum, creating a state of equilibrium where everything stagnates.

“By contrast, if the universe is not expanding fast enough, then the expansion will eventually slow down,” he said. “Gravity will pull everything back together again, and everything will coalesce into a black hole from which the universe will never emerge again.”

Craig said the fact that the solar system and the universe exist in the manner they do shows that the universe was created by a specific, transcendent being.

This being must have freedom of will and freedom to act, he said. It had to have existed outside of the universe prior to its creation. 

William Stone, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he attended the event because he enjoys hearing different points of view. He is not religious, but he is willing to listen and think about varying worldviews.

Stone said these premises were part of Craig’s dissertation. The material discussed requires a lot of personal thought to fully appreciate, he said.

“It’s aimed to reinforce Christians in their faith,” he said. “It’s aimed to challenge atheists and people with other worldviews, to challenge their beliefs.”

Nikhilesh De

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