Self Creation and the concept of ‘Chance’
Last time we looked at the concept of Self Creation and it’s various varieties; self generation, gradual self generation and multiple universes coming into being and so on. Lastly, we concluded within contemporary language that the counter to theism is brought on by some type of appeal to what we call “chance creation.” This is what we are going to look at in this session. Sproul has written a book on this subject. Where it covers an analysis and the role of ‘chance in modern cosmology and cosmogony'. He wrote it because as he explored different offerings in the field of science which were trying to work out some of the most difficult concepts for the scientist to deal with and how many scientists have assigned worth to this exploration.
Sproul’s beef or dissent was not with their experimentation but with there articulation of the results of their experiments and the inferences they were drawing from the data that they had worked with. Sproul says he doesn’t have to be a physicist to analyze the content -- the significance -- the coherence of statements. Yes, propositions which philosophers major in and can work through very swiftly are not just the scientists own tools of reasoning. Sproul can give a logical analysis of the truth values of propositions that scientists articulate as to why things function. So, when physicists characterize and articulate their theories in ways which, ultimately, are nonsense, then it is time for the philosopher to blow the whistle, step up to the plate, and say, ‘we don’t understand what you are trying to say here’ because what you are saying is absurd and unintelligible. And please go back to the drawing board and try to rephrase and develop your statements; or simply say, ‘you don’t what you are talking about.’ For the way you are talking about it demonstrates that you don’t know how to talk about it. It reveals that you are not communicating intelligible speech as it refers to your conclusions on you reasoning.
In Sproul’s book, in the preface, he refers to Arthur Kessler which said, “as long as chance rules, God is an anachronism.” Sproul picked up on that for it’s insight. And Sproul would like to go farther. It is not that chance has to rule for this to be true, Sproul thinks that all that has to be demonstrated is that “chance exists” in order to make God into an anachronism. That there is really such a thing as chance out there in reality which is involved with the creation of things.
So, if chance has any authority it deposes God altogether. This comes by the merit that this something called chance - exists. The mere existence of chance is enough to rip God from his cosmic throne. Chance doesn’t need to rule - it doesn’t need to be sovereign - but if it, ‘chance‘, exists in any form, even a most humble servant framework, it leaves God not only out of date, but, out of a job.
Sproul and the Harvard Professor
The basic thesis in his book, in the final analysis according to Sproul, that there is no such thing as chance. The greatest myth in modern mythology is the myth of chance. That is what we are going to address here. What provoked this work of the book in the first place was a discussion Sproul had with a professor at the graduate school of Harvard in the Philosophy of Science. They were discussing the origin of the universe. This professor denies a creation moment. So Sproul asks where did it come from then -- this first Singularity event. The Harvard guy said it came to BE as result of chance. He said the universe was created by chance. So Sproul asks him again, so, the universe was created by chance? He said yes. So Sproul took out of his pocket a quarter and flipped it up in the air - caught it and turned it over and it turned up ‘heads.’ He asked the Harvard professor, what happened? He said it is going to come up either heads or tails 100% of the time. This procedure is going to be either 50% heads or 50% tails. Sproul says if he[the Harvard professor] put it to the test and designed a system that would spin and toss the coin the same way each time, within a vacuum and all other parameters and forces on that coin were constant and repeated in such the same manner, what would happen? Sproul asked him if the professor could bring up his variable percentage of it coming up ‘heads’? And the professor said, of course! This would increase the likelihood. Which is true for what Sproul said initially, they both understood this, that the causal agencies that are involved in coming out with this effect of whether this coin comes up either heads or tails has nothing to do with some mythological power called chance. It has to do with, in this causal experiment, of how we tossed the coin. All the factors that one would establish so it was identical each time you tossed the coin. All variables of physical space and motion are consistent and the outcome is always the same. And with all that for the certainty of one result; we can nevertheless say that it is always 50-50.
Serindipity as chance
There is nothing at all wrong with the word chance in a particular setting. It is a perfectly meaningful word when we use it to describe mathematical possibilities. The word becomes a synonym for the odds of such and such. We also use it in a meaningful way when we speak of ‘chance encounters.’
Sproul describes a train trip where he got on a train and went to various cities on his trip. He had a lay over and there was traffic going the opposite direction and he encountered a friend he hadn’t seen in ten years. They conversed and went their ways. Ten hours later when the train came for Sproul the same teeming masses of people were in this Chicago train station and he sees the same friend he saw ten hours ago. What are the odds of that? It is called a serendipitous encounter. A chance happening. But chance doesn’t explain why it happened. Because chance didn’t cause it. The reason that we happened to meet each other was because we happened to be at the same place at the same time; for a host of different reasons. All these things converging in time and space.
Again, chance is a perfectly legitimate word when we use it in the particular popular way to describe these kinds of unintentional meetings or mathematical probabilities we find ourselves in. But what has happened in modern jargon is the word ‘chance’ has subtly been elevated to something far more than just mathematical odds or probabilities. Where actual causal POWER is attributed to chance. So when he talked to his professor friend they agreed on the incapacity of chance to have Being and gave no chance for ‘chance’ to cause the coin to flip a certain way. Based on this simple illustration of this coin toss this Harvard man literally banged his palm into his head and said, ‘I guess I shouldn’t have said that the universe was created by chance.’
The Ontological status of ‘chance’ is “zero.”
When it comes to addressing the Harvard professor one has to take in the science of Ontology, which is the study of Being, of essence, of reality and of ‘isness’. The Ontological status of ‘chance’ is “zero.” Again, ‘chance’ has no Being. Chance is not a thing that operates and works upon other things. It is simply a mental concept that refers to mathematical possibilities. But in and of itself ‘chance’ has no ontology. So Sproul says of this piece of chalk that he has in his hand; It has some being to it. And the being of this chalk can keep the scientist and the philosopher busy for centuries finding it’s essence or the substance that is found in this cylinder of chalk. The one thing that all can agree on is that it is not nothing. It is something.
Earlier in these lectures R.C. said, “that if Something exists, then, God exists. If there is anything out there with ontological status, then you are driven, by necessity of the term, to a self existent eternal being.”
Chalk has ontological status. It is a thing. It has existence. It is real rather that illusion. So too, are we.
But when we come to chance, and when Sproul and the professor spoke they agreed that chance has no ‘being.’ And as a result of it not having any being, it therefore has no power. For, that which is absent of being, must of necessity, be absent of power. Because for power to operate, it must be from the power of something. Alas you can’t have power generated from nothing. Along with the fact that you cannot have objects generated from nothing. Power, that is doing, has to have a doer. Just like Descartes said a thought needed a thinker.
A premise we must know today, that scientists and philosophers have all agreed throughout the ages is ‘chance’ as a word has come to define our ignorance. We throw chance into the equation when we don’t know what’s going on out there. When we can’t do our homework analytically and come away with a cogent understanding we begin to attribute things we don’t know to chance and some magical power it possesses. Now, you’re going to say to me, there are games of chance and card games where you have probabilities of certain things coming up. And you would be right. But the reason for the card hand I was dealt in a Bridge game is because of how they were shuffled and sifted and arranged before you shuffled them and the sequence of handing out the cards and so on. Chance is not some invisible demon who jumps into the cards and has the power to set in motion the way the cards are going to be handled. There is no invisible power called ‘chance‘.
So again, back to this dialogue between the two of them, where Sproul says, Do you agree that chance is not a thing and cannot exercise power? Do you agree? He said yes. Chance is no thing, again, chance is no-thing, again, it is nothing. So when you say that the universe was created by chance you are saying, analytically, that the universe is created by nothing. You are not just giving some small power to chance, you attributing the supreme power to chance in creating everything. Not only to just some thing, no, you are wanting chance to bring everything into being, the whole of reality manifested by what you attribute to ‘chance‘.
The absurdity and myth of chance
This concept, under 5 minutes of analysis yields to it’s own absurdity. It manifests itself as the worst kind of mythology. If you couch it in respectable language and communicate in the language of science it almost sounds plausible. Like thinking that metals could be turned into some other more precious metal. And it was respected as possible for centuries by descriptions in respected scientific language. You can give respectability to mythology if you couch your language in academic parlance. Nonetheless, if you say it is something then, I would ask you, what is it? How much does it weight, is it extended or non-extended. Is it an energy field or electro magnetic pulse, what is the genesis of this power?
you should stop saying that nothing causes something
When you find those that want to prove chance you come to people like Neils Bohr who said “contradictions are complementary.” he was willing to affirm both sides of a contradiction. This thinking drove Einstein nuts! He said as soon as Neils Bohr started talking like this he not only ceases to be logical he ceases being a scientist. With Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle there are certain ways to explain it. When doing experiments on subatomic particles you can say we don’t know why they act in this way. The very experiment may have an influence on the result. For it seems that these particles are acting in a completely irrational manner. It is one thing to say that I do not know why these subatomic particles are behaving in this way, that none of our scientific paradigms account for this inexplicable behavior. And you say, I just don’t know. That is a proper scientific demeanor. When you bump up to the limits of knowledge you say you don’t know. This should be the manner in all fields of study. But it is another thing to say that nothing is producing this event. Unless you know everything attached to an idea - you should stop saying that nothing causes something. It is bad science as well as bad theology to attribute self creation as a power, under any circumstances.