In1687, Isaac Newton published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). It has been referred to as the single most influential book on physics. Within that text, Newton expounds on nearly all the essential concepts of physics, including explanations of the laws of motion and the theory of gravity. Isaac Newton was the first to develop a quantitative theory of gravity. He stated that the force of attraction between two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses, while at the same time inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. In simple terms, the larger the two objects are, the greater the gravitational pull between them; and the closer together the two objects are, the greater the gravitational pull between them.
In 1905, Albert Einstein shook up the world of physics by writing four pivotal papers addressing things from how light works (as both a ray and a particle), to confirming the existence of atoms, to his famous theory of relativity. In one of his papers, he disagreed with one major assumption made by Isaac Newton. Newton believed that mass, force, gravity, and motion were absolute and fixed. Einstein proposed that those values were instead relative to the frame of reference of the observer. The only constant in physics, according to Einstein, was the speed of light. Einstein then added that mass was equivalent to energy through his famous equation, E = mc2.
Einstein was also the first scientist to propose that space and time can vary. Physicists now have a better understanding of the universe based on that concept. The field of quantum physics now seeks to springboard off these fundamental ideas from Einstein about how matter and energy relate.
As complex as some of these theories may be and as overwhelming as their discussion can seem at times, all of these theories require a certain thing: matter. How that matter can relate to energy and how that matter is affected by other matter, like with gravity, is all dependent on matter existing. Simply put, in order for there to be gravity, there must be an object. There cannot be a gravitational pull without any matter.
That may seem pretty obvious, but it is important to state it directly, especially in some discussions about the existence of God. One of the simplest arguments for the existence of God is the Cosmological Argument. It states that all things that begin to exist must have a cause; the universe began to exist, therefore, the universe must have a cause. Though the first premise (all things that begin to exist must have a cause) follows logically, the second premise requires some proof. Did the universe begin to exist? In order to answer that, it must be shown that the universe is not eternal.
The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics both indicate the universe is not eternal (for more explanation on that, click here). The expansion of the universe identified by Edwin Hubble showed the universe was expanding from a singularity event, a particular moment in time from which the universe began. And even according to cosmologist and atheist Stephen Hawking, “All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning.” There is much scientific evidence to confirm that the universe is not eternal. It must logically follow then, that the universe requires some kind of cause.
However, some atheists will not fully concede this point because of the larger implications. If the universe is not eternal, then it does require a cause. What would that cause be? Because of where that answer leads, some atheists will alter their answer a bit on the question of whether the universe is eternal or not. They may agree that the physical universe may not be eternal, but they may claim the laws of physics are eternal. They claim the laws of physics have existed eternally and could possibly be what caused the universe. It would mean that things like the law of gravity existed before there was matter, or that the small and weak nuclear force existed before there
were any nuclei.
But this breaks with any kind of reasonable understanding. There are no physical laws without physical matter. A gravitational force cannot exist unto itself without an object there to exercise that gravitational force. There cannot be a force existing on its own that will eventually govern how atoms stay together before there are any atoms at all. There cannot be an eternity of laws to govern material interactions without any material existing.
It is simply another effort to side-step the fact that this universe is not eternal and requires some adequate cause to bring it into existence. This is a perfect illustration of what evolutionist Richard Lewontin once stated:
“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
Accepting and recounting the idea that the physical laws of the universe could exist eternally without physical matter is one of those examples of a commitment to materialism no matter the break in reasoning and logic.