Turtles All the Way Down: First Proof of God

In my research for the next post in the series, God Is Not A Unicorn, I felt a slight detour was needed for those who are not familiar with an older view of the universe as a reality whole and unbroken. Modern particle physics experimentation has been described like this: It is like smashing an idyllic pond environment with an atom bomb and then trying to explain what a pond is from the pieces that are left over. Scientists break reality into smaller and smaller pieces, then try to reconstruct a model of the universe from those bits and pieces.

In contrast, St. Thomas Aquinas famously put forward “Five Proofs of God” in his Summa Theologiae which looked at the natural universe as a whole system. In this post we are going to look at his first proof: “argument from unmoved mover”. I must warn you that it is not an argument that is easy to understand at first. As moderns, we are unused to this way of reasoning and so often avoid it. It may take more than one attempt to understand what is being said here, but I assure you it is worth taking time to think about these ideas as they are fundamental thought about our very being.

The video below is a pretty good explanation of the first proof of St. Thomas Aquinas (Unmoved Mover). This first proof is often explained poorly (and incompletely). It also explains the context of these proofs. They are not definitive proofs of God. They are considered ways to logically infer the existence of God from reason. (I also like that they make Aquinas talk like a Monty Python Character).

This series of videos also included the modern scientific arguments against Aquinas’s first proof. In this video it is explained that the universe is not a system of interlocking moving parts and so motion must originate from the “unmoved mover.” The modern view is that motion originates through intrinsic forces or laws of nature. In essence – the universe is more like individual forces of billiard balls than a system of forces working on each other. More on that faulty thinking below the video.

Oddly, it seems that this 2nd video misses the essence of Aquinas’ argument. Aquinas argued that the first mover – or unmoved mover – would not be a “force” of the same type of natural forces in the universe. This strange omission underscores the powerful conditioning of our modern culture and the mechanistic view of the universe that exists today. It’s almost as if Aquinas argument is “overwritten” without any real consideration of what he is actually saying. Even if it is true that the “laws of nature” are intrinsic to the physical objects of the universe, this simply means that they are attributes of these objects. (Intrinsic means “belonging naturally; essential.”) That definition begs the question: Where do these intrinsic laws of nature come from? It is circular reasoning to say a thing exists because of its attributes. Avoiding the question of where these laws originate from is not an argument against the Aquinas’ first proof.

This second video also says (wrongly) that the Big Bang Theory proves (in theory) that the universe has a beginning. This conflicts with the idea that the universe is eternal as St. Thomas thought. But, that is not what most physicists think. The canonical response to the joke “What existed before the Big Bang” is “It’s turtles all the way down.” This is a reference to a Creation myth that the world is supported by a giant turtle. It’s from an older joke that when asked “What supports the turtle?”, the answer is “It’s turtles all the way down”.

The truth is that we do not know how the universe was first formed, whether it is eternal or not, or even if the Big Bang Theory is correct. (see Cosmology: Modern Science Creation Story aka The Big Bang Theory (Part 3)).

Some scientific questions stop at the door of metaphysics. There exists, especially among the intelligentsia, a mental resistance to admitting these questions exist. That attitude does not disprove the existence of God, nor does it invalidate Aquinas’ reasoning on the subject.

Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in the series: God is Not a Unicorn: The Myth and Physics of Creation

In Part 1 we looked at the reason why the question of God ‘s existence cannot be satisfied by an appeal to the imagination alone.


The question of why is there something rather than nothing has been with us for as long as man first acquired language and began to ask questions about the world around him. It is not a simple question and it does not belong to one branch of knowledge. The discussion of it can get complicated quickly, as you can see from the quotation below. In this post I will try to break the question down into simpler language so that we can understand the various approaches to answering it more fully.

Continue reading “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? (Part 2)”

God is Not a Unicorn: The Myth and Physics of Creation (Part 1)

A common argument against the existence of God is to use an analogy with imaginary things such as unicorns. It is said that because unicorns are a product of human imagination then God must be too. The reasoning goes that because unicorns have never been seen, they do not exist and so the same must be true for God. But this is a poor analogy and it is important to understand why before dismissing the concept of God altogether as a fantasy.

Narwhal tusks and Marco Polo

First let us consider the origin of the unicorn. One theory for the imaginative invention of the Unicorn is that Narwhale tusks were the model for the type of horn we see on European representations of unicorns as in the photo above. These unicorns look like an antelope or a horse with the narwhale horn coming out of the middle of its forehead. It is possible the unicorn started as a tall tale from a fisherman or a beachcomber.

Continue reading “God is Not a Unicorn: The Myth and Physics of Creation (Part 1)”

Free Will or No Control?

Do We Have Free Will?

We think, we feel, we desire. These three attributes of our being have been recognized since ancient times. But how much do we control do we really have over our lives? This question has vexed us since the beginning of time.

Continue reading “Free Will or No Control?”

Einstein’s Orginal Sin

Confusion over what Einstein’s Theories of Relativity actually revealed about the true nature of space and time created a major storm of controversy in the early part of the 20th century and continues, though more quietly, to this day. Most people think that Relativity has been “proven” by science and that only cranks would continue to think there is something to debate.

What is not known, by the general public, is that later in life Einstein himself began to reflect on what he had accomplished and expressed some doubt that he had, in fact, been correct about some interpretations of his theories ideas concerning the true nature of time and space.

The Original Sin

Einstein’s original sin, centered on his use of the discovery of the speed of light and the fact that it seemed to be constant no matter which reference frame it traveled in. This means that no matter how fast a light source travelled, the maximum speed light that was emitted from that source had a fixed upper limit. There are other interpretations that could be imagined about the nature of light, space and time from that discovery, but it was Einstein’s interpretation that world came to accept as the true one. Let us see why.

Continue reading “Einstein’s Orginal Sin”