“When people ask me if a God created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the Big Bang, so there is no time for God to make the universe in. No one created our Universe, and no one directs our fate.”
— Stephen Hawking
These lines from Hawking’s path-breaking book ‘A Brief History of Time’ essentially answers the titular question. He maintains that there is a ‘grand design’ to the universe, but that has nothing to do with ‘God’. The question however, is addressed from a strictly scientific perspective. Interestingly, there are multiple schools of thought that exist, which attempt to address this baffling question. While some schools such as Hawking’s are purely scientific in nature, others appear to be extremely religious in their approach.
It’s a Category Fallacy
It is an essentially flawed question, and is similar to asking questions such as “can fishes swim?”, or “can birds fly?” More importantly, it creates a category fallacy, a term coined by Gilbert Ryle in 1949, which ascribes a set of qualities to an object that cannot possess them. It is like telling a gambler that he is “making a bad gamble”, or asking, “what does the colour blue taste like?” The reason is simple. Time and again, we can only ask the question “Who made this object?” for such entities that can be ‘made’. For instance, it is sensible to ask, “Who made this camera?”, because a camera can be made and there is definite proof of a camera-maker. However, God, by definition, is an ‘entity’ that cannot be ‘made’; if God were ‘made’, then He would not really be God. This creates a category fallacy, and is akin to asking, “Who made the ‘unmakeable’ and ‘self-existent’ Creator of the Universe?”
Anything that has a beginning must have a cause, right?
A more cosmopolitan and worldly-wise individual would instead ask: “If the universe requires a cause, then why doesn’t God require a cause? Again, if God doesn’t require a cause, why should the universe require one in order to exist?” This can be answered using the ‘Law of Causation’, which states that ‘anything which has a beginning has a cause’, and since the universe had a beginning, it must have had a cause. All scientific observations of the real world leads us to believe that the universe had a ‘beginning’, as with every other object within the universe, which has a point of origin: human beings are born, plants grow, flowers blossom, etc.
If there were matter, but no space, ‘where’ would one put it? If there were matter and space, but no time, ‘when’ would one put it? Therefore, we cannot have time, space or matter autonomously, as they have to come into existence in concurrence. Accordingly, if ‘God’ is constrained by time, he cannot be ‘God’. For example, the person who creates a smartphone cannot be present inside the smartphone — he has to be present outside of it. So, the creator of the universe (i.e. God), is outside of the universe (or multiverse). In fact, he is above it, beyond it, in it, through it, and more importantly, he is unaffected by it.
So, we’re talking of a ‘creator-less’ Creator?
According to the Law of Conservation of Energy, energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system. Now, since matter and energy cannot create itself, where did all the matter and energy originate? It is a valid question, but it fails to explain the origin of the universe. In accordance with the law of causation, everything we see and experience in real life was non-existent, at some point in time. Let us represent this numerically as ‘0’. Since all experiences originate from nothing, the ‘beginning’ can also be represented numerically as ‘0’. From a mathematical perspective, we are claiming that during the externality of nothingness, the sum of ‘0’ and ‘0’ will result in ‘creation’ (represented by ‘1’). This is evidently a mathematical impossibility, since, no matter how much time we devote, we shall never get ‘something’ from ‘nothing’. A more accurate numerical representation of the origin of the universe is ‘1+0=1’, where, ‘1’ represents the ‘Creator’, ‘0’ represents the ‘beginning’ and the output ‘1’ represents the ‘Creation’. Yet, it fails to represent our existence adequately, as the titular question persists: Who created God?
From a theistic perspective, the existence of a ‘created God’ is principally delusive, as ‘God’ has no ‘beginning’ and no ‘end’. This is where the flaw lies: If we linger upon the question ‘Who created God?’ we would inevitably find ourselves entangled in an infinite loop of questions with no logical end. Thus, if God created the universe, who created God? And who created the ‘one’ who created God? And who created Him? And so on, and on… This results in a flawed chain of existence, comprising of ‘creator-less’ creations, which is a ‘futile exercise’ according to Hawking. We would inevitably end up with an infinite line of creations with no veracious creator, unless we take into consideration an ‘Eternal Being’, which represents the fount of all creation, and has no beginning and no end.
Religions answered it aeons back!
Despite the persistent stand-off between science and religion, this answer has already been inscribed in multiple religious texts and literature, even though each religion explains the same truth in different contexts.
In the Bible, we are oriented to the account of the creation of essentially everything, in Genesis 1:1-2, “In the beginning God created the heavens, and the Earth…And God said, Let there be light: and there was light!” The Bible also reveals the Creator of the Universe to be an eternal Being: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2). God is also portrayed as a non-material being, beyond the confines of time, space and matter: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24).
The Vedas evangelise that during Chaturmaas (i.e. the rainy months), prior to the creation of the universe (brahmãnd), Lord Vishnu was engaged in a deep state of slumber in the causal ocean, during which, a lotus sprout from His navel, which is epitomised as the root of ‘creation’. In the interior of the lotus, resides Brahma, who embodies the universe, in which we all dwell, and it is Brahma, who happens to create all life forms. Interestingly, Vishnu is the personification of the eternal multiverse, which represents the eternity, which lies beyond our universe that has no ‘birth’ and ‘death’. Au contraire, Brahma is the personification of our temporary physical universe that comprises of birth and death, and which we believe to have been created with the Big Bang, from a navel singularity.
In the Quran, Allah evangelises that he is “As-Samad” (the eternity besought of all). He is also the “Al-Awwal” (First) and the “Al-Akhir” (Last). He is also without beginning or end (Al-Hadid [57:3]). He is represented as a self-sufficient, autonomous Being, who is ‘perfect’ (Al-Hadid [57:3]), in all His attributes. The Quran further expounds, “Is it other than Allah I should take as a protector, Creator of the heavens and the earth, while it is He who feeds and is not fed?”
To Believe or Not to Believe, that is the question!
Now, if God permanently dwells in our hearts and minds, it is affected by time, space or matter, which is impractical. Even if we define God as a spiritual force, it cannot have any impact on the corporeal realm. Thus, having deliberated upon both scientific and religious angles, and having established the congruence between the two schools of thought, there is much scope for scepticism to persist. It depends on whether individuals are seeking a rational explanation or are willing to explore further realms. Now that individuals have a perspective before them, their only choice is to either believe in it or disbelieve it. If they choose to believe it, they shall only become more self-assured, but if they choose to disbelieve it, they shall remain in a joyfully confused state of mind, which may often make them miserable from within.
— The author is an Assistant Professor of Management Studies at St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata.
[The view expressed here are personal and don’t reflect those of the government]