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Why Does the Universe Exist? Atheist Physicist Sean Carroll Answers…


I have to admit, when I first opened Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016) I immediately flipped to chapter 25, titled "Why Does the Universe Exist?" For many thinkers, ancient and modern, this is the philosophical question: why is there something rather than nothing? Your answer to this question drives your answers to most other big questions, including those about God, meaning, morality, and more. So I was... Read More

Is the Passage of Time Real or Just an Illusion?


One of the main targets of Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016), is causality. Like many naturalists, he sees where the causal chain leads—a series of contingent causes demands a necessary First Cause. So if you want to avoid a First Cause, you must get rid of causality. As discussed in an earlier post, Carroll's first attempt appealed to the conservation of momentum. It wasn't clear how that principle... Read More

Sean Carroll, Determinism, and Laplace’s Demon


Today we continue our series looking at physicist Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016). After exploring whether the universe needed a cause to get started, Carroll next turns to the topic of determinism: is reality determined or free? Laplace's Demon Carroll's answer relies on a famous thought-experiment involving "Laplace's Demon". Pierre-Simon Laplace was an accomplished French physicist and mathematician.... Read More

Is Sean Carroll Correct That the Universe Moves By Itself?


Many theists, including myself, believe that some of the strongest arguments for God rely on the logical need for a First Cause of the universe (or First Mover, depending on which argument you use.) This sort of argument goes back at least to Aristotle, who thousands of years ago suggested that, "Everything that is in motion must be moved by something" (and by motion he meant any change whatsoever, not just locomotion, or spatial change). However, physicist Sean Carroll thinks Aristotle... Read More

The Big Problem with Sean Carroll’s “Poetic Naturalism”


Today we continue our look at Sean Carroll's anticipated new book,The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016). Carroll starts his book by diving right into the deep end. The first chapter in the first section concerns a huge topic: the fundamental nature of reality. Carroll explains that philosophers consider this the domain of ontology, but then he offers a strange definition. Ontology, he says, is "the study of the basic structure of the... Read More

Why Sean Carroll’s “The Big Picture” Is Too Small


Physicist Sean Carroll has a high reputation in the scientific and atheist communities, and it's well-deserved. He's produced several acclaimed books on the philosophy of time, the Higgs Boson particle, and general relatively. But none of his past books has been as daring or sweeping as his latest project, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016). One reviewer for Nature began by stating, "I don't think I have ever read anything with... Read More

5 Reasons Why the Universe Can’t Be Merely a Brute Fact


Can the universe be a mere brute fact? Can we say, “The universe just exists and that’s that—it has no explanation at all”? Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, thinks so. In a recent interview at Salon.com, Carroll says, “There’s certainly no reason to think that there was something that ‘caused’ it; the universe can just be.” Carroll is in good company with such an assertion. Bertrand Russell, the late British atheistic philosopher,... Read More

Answering Stephen Colbert’s Favorite Atheist Physicist


In a book that was released a few days ago, Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist, critic of religion, and former guest of The Colbert Report, presents what he calls The Big Picture. Neil deGrasse Tyson says the book “weav[es] the threads of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and philosophy into a seamless narrative tapestry. Sean Carroll enthralls us with what we’ve figured out in the universe and humbles us with what we don’t yet understand. Yet in the end, it’s the meaning... Read More

The Ultimate Jeopardy Question


“Why is there something rather than nothing?” In The Grand Design (2010), Stephen Hawking made headlines by denying the need for God to get matter to jump into being; the law of gravity was enough to do it. Then, Lawrence Krauss created a Youtube sensation and book called, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing (2012), that made the same case, including an afterward by Richard Dawkins who heralded it as a death blow to the last proof for the existence of... Read More

Can Something Actually Cause Itself to Exist?


"There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible." - Summa Theologiae I.2.3 "If, then, something were its own cause of being, it would be understood to be before it had being – which is impossible…" - Summa Contra Gentiles I.22.6     Was Aquinas mistaken? Could something be its own cause? Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow seem to think so. In... Read More

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