Secular Philosophy Metaphysics Cosmology

QUESTION: Secular Philosophy – Metaphysics and Cosmology

ANSWER:

Cosmology refers to the philosophical study of the universe, especially its origin. Secular Humanists believe that the physical universe came into being by accident and that it is all that exists. Denying the existence of a supernatural Creator, Secular Humanists instead believe that eternal matter spontaneously generated life, and ultimately the human mind, through an evolutionary process.

Carl Sagan, the 1981 recipient of the Humanist of the Year award, sums up the cosmology of naturalism: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”1 For Secular Humanists, no personal First Cause exists—only the cosmos. “Nature is but an endless series of efficient causes. She cannot create but she eternally transforms. There was no beginning and there can be no end.”2

Secular Philosophy – Avoid God as the First Cause
Secular Humanists have no need for a God in order to explain the origin of the cosmos. Humanists assign a different basis for reality to the universe, a non-sequential group of first causes, avoiding God as the First Cause. Lamont calls these the “ultimate principles of explanation and intelligibility.”3 These ultimate principles are a sufficient cause for the rest of reality. Interestingly, Paul Kurtz, editor of Free Inquiry, pays his respects to science, saying that “the discoveries of astronomy, physics, relativity theory, and quantum mechanics have increased our understanding of the universe,”4 but he never mentions the “Big Bang” metaphor. Acknowledging such a metaphor suggests a creative point like that in Genesis 1:1, which is outside the purview of Secular Humanist cosmology.

Worth noting, in contrast, is the controversy among Christians about the age of the universe, not whether a Big Bang occurred (if a Big Bang refers to the moment of Creation).5

Also worth noting is Einstein’s conclusion regarding the origin of the cosmos: “The harmony of natural law...reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”6 More recently, Robert Jastrow startled his fellow scientists with a similar conclusion: “The Anthropic principle is the most interesting development next to the proof of the creation, and it is even more interesting because it seems to say that science itself has proven, as a hard fact, that this universe was made, was designed, for man to live in. It is a very theistic result.”7

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York, NY: Random House, 1980), 4. For an in-depth look at how Sagan faired in his confrontation with Immanuel Velikovsky, see Charles Ginenthal, Carl Sagan & Immanuel Velikovsky (Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Publications, 1995).

2 Roger E. Greeley, ed., The Best of Humanism (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988), 162.

3 Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism (New York, NY: Frederick Ungar, 1982), 170–1.

4 Paul Kurtz, Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call For A New Planetary Humanism (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000), 15.

5 See Normal L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, 4 vols. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House), 2:632f, for a good summary of the issue. Creation and Time by Hugh Ross presents the case for an older universe, while Refuting Compromise by Jonathan Sarfati presents the case for a younger universe, along with Walter Brown, In The Beginning (Phoenix, AZ: Center for Scientific Creation, 2003) and volumes 1 and 2 of Larry Vardiman, Andrew A. Snelling, Eugene F. Chaffin, Radioisotopes: And The Age Of The Earth (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 2005).

6 Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (New York, NY: Crown, 1982), 40, quoted in Geisler, Systematic Theology, 2:666.

7 Robert Jastrow, “A Scientist Caught Between Two Faiths,” Christianity Today, August 6, 1982, quoted in Geisler, Systematic Theology, 2:591.

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