by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


[EDITORS' NOTE: In the June, 1989 issue of `Reason & Revelation' we

presented the first in a non-consecutive series of articles on "The

Bible and the Laws of Science." The first article discussed the Law of

Biogenesis. As mentioned in the editors' note accompanying that

article, it is our intention in this series to discuss the various laws

of science (e.g., the laws of cause and effect, probability, genetics,

etc.) and their bearing on, and relationship to, matters presented in

the Bible. Each article will be written using vocabulary that is as

non-technical in nature as possible, so as to benefit even those who do

not have extensive training in the sciences. We hope you enjoy this

series, the second article of which is published here.]


Indisputably, the most universal, and the most certain, of all

scientific laws is the law of cause and effect, or as it is commonly

known, the law (or principle) of causality. Scientists, and

philosophers of science, recognize laws as "reflecting actual

regularities in nature" (Hull, 1974, p 3). So far as scientific

testing and historical experience can attest, laws know no exceptions.

And this is certainly true of the law of causality. This law has been

stated in a variety of ways, each of which adequately expresses its

ultimate meaning. Kant, in the first edition of his `Critique of Pure

Reason', stated that "everything that happens (begins to be)

presupposes something which it follows according to a rule." In the

second edition, he strengthened that statement by noting that "all

changes take place according to the law of connection of cause and

effect" (see Meiklejohn, 1878, p 141). Schopenhauer stated the

proposition as, "Nothing happens without a reason why it should happen

rather than not happen" (see von Mises, 1951, p 159). The number of

examples of various formulations could be expanded almost indefinitely.

But simply put, the law of causality states that every material effect

must have an adequate cause.

This concept has been argued, pro and con, in treatises through the

years with respect to its philosophical/theological implications. But

after the dust has settled, the law of causality remains intact. There

is no question of its acceptance in the world of experimental science,

or in the ordinary world of personal experience. Testimony to that fact

abounds. Many years ago, Professor W.T. Stace, in his classic work, `A

Critical History of Greek Philosophy', commented that:

Every student of logic knows that this is the ultimate canon

of the sciences, the foundation of them all. If we did not

believe the truth of causation, namely, everything which has

a beginning has a cause, and that in the same circumstances

the same things invariably happen, all the sciences would at

once crumble to dust. In every scientific investigation this

truth is assumed (1934, p 6).

The law of causality is not just of importance to science. Richard

von Mises has observed: "We may only add that almost all philosophers

regard the law of causality as the most important, the most far-

reaching, and the most firmly founded of all principles of

epistemology." He then adds that:

The law of causality claims that for every observable

phenomenon (let us call it `B') there exists a second

phenomenon `A', such that the sentence ``B' follows from

`A'' is true.... There can be no doubt that the law of

causality in the formulation just stated is in agreement

with all our own experiences and with those which come to

our knowledge in one way or another. ...we can also state

that in practical life there is hardly a more useful and

more reliable rule of behavior than to assume of any

occurrence that we come to know that some other one

preceded it as its cause (1951, pp 159,160, emp. in orig.).

Dr. von Mises is hardly alone in his estimation of the importance

of this basic law of science. Richard Taylor, writing on this topic in

`The Encyclopedia of Philosophy', comments:

Nevertheless, it is hardly disputable that the idea of

causation is not only indispensable in the common affairs

of life but in all applied science as well. Jurisprudence

and law would become quite meaningless if men were not

entitled to seek the causes of various unwanted events

such as violent deaths, fires, and accidents. The same is

true in such areas as public health, medicine, military

planning, and, indeed, every area of life (1967, p 57).


While the law of causality crosses strictly scientific boundaries

and impacts all other disciplines as well, and while the principle of

cause and effect has serious theological and/or metaphysical

implications in its own right, the scientific implications it presents

are among the most serious ever discovered. Obviously, if every

material effect has an adequate cause, and if the universe is a

material effect, then the universe had a cause. This particular point

has not been overlooked by scholars. For example, Dr. Robert Jastrow,

founder and former director of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies

at NASA, wrote:

The Universe, and everything that has happened in it since

the beginning of time, are a grand effect without a known

cause. An effect without a cause? That is not the world of

science; it is a world of witchcraft, of wild events and the

whims of demons, a medieval world that science has tried to

banish. As scientists, what are we to make of this picture?

I do not know. I would only like to present the evidence for

the statement that the Universe, and man himself, originated

in a moment when time began (1977, p 21).

Effects are unknown without adequate causes. Yet the universe, says

Jastrow, is a tremendous effect---without any known cause. Centuries of

in-depth research have taught us much about causes, however. We know,

for example, that causes never occur subsequent to the effect. As

Taylor observes, "Contemporary philosophers...have nevertheless, for

the most part, agreed that causes cannot occur after their effects....

it is generally thought to be simply part of the usual meaning of

`cause' that a cause is something temporally prior to, or at least not

subsequent to, its effect" (1967, p 59). It is meaningless to speak of

a cause following an effect, or of an effect preceding a cause. Such is


We also know that the effect is never quantitatively greater than,

or qualitatively superior to, the cause. It is this knowledge that is

responsible for our formulation of the law of causality in these words:

"Every effect must have an adequate cause." The river did not turn

muddy because the frog jumped in; the book did not fall from the table

because the fly lighted on it; these are not adequate causes. Whatever

effects we observe, for those effects we must postulate adequate


Little wonder then, that the law of causality has such serious

implications in every field of endeavor, be it science, metaphysics, or

theology. The universe is here. Some cause prior to the universe is

responsible for its existence. That cause must be greater than, and

superior to, the universe itself. But, as Jastrow notes, "...the latest

astronomical results indicate that at some point in the past the chain

of cause and effect terminated abruptly. An important event occurred---

the origin of the world---for which there is no known cause or

explanation" (1977, p 27). Of course, when Dr. Jastrow speaks of "no

known cause or explanation," he means that there is no known natural

cause or explanation. Scientists and philosophers alike understand that

the universe must have had a cause. They understand that this cause had

to precede the universe, and be superior to it in every way.

Admittedly, there is no natural cause sufficient to explain the origin

of matter, and thus the universe, as Jastrow candidly admits. This

presents a very real problem, however. Dr. R.L. Wysong comments on this

problem as follows:

Everyone concludes naturally and comfortably that highly

ordered and designed items (machines, houses, etc.) owe

existence to a designer. It is unnatural to conclude

otherwise. But evolution asks us to break stride from what

is natural to believe and then believe in that which is

unnatural, unreasonable, and...unbelievable. We are told by

some that all of reality---the universe, life, etc.---is

without an initial cause. But, since the universe operates

by cause and effect relationships, how can it be argued from

science---which is a study of that very universe---that the

universe is without an initial cause? Or, if the evolutionist

cites a cause, he cites either eternal matter or energy. Then

he has suggested a cause far less than the effect. The basis

for this departure from what is natural and reasonable to

believe is not fact, observation, or experience but rather

unreasonable extrapolations from abstract probabilities,

mathematics, and philosophy (1976, p 412, ellipsis in orig.)

Dr. Wysong presents an interesting historical case to document his

point. Some years ago, scientists were called to Great Britain to

study, on the Salisbury Plain at Wiltshire, orderly patterns of

concentric rocks and holes. This find came to be known as Stonehenge.

As studies progressed, it became apparent that these patterns had been

specifically designed to allow certain astronomical predictions. The

questions of how the rocks were moved into place, how these ancient

peoples were able to construct an astronomical observatory, how the

data derived from their studies were used, and many others remain

unsolved. But one thing is clear: the cause of Stonehenge was

intelligent design.

Now, says Dr. Wysong, compare Stonehenge (as one television

commentary did) to the situation paralleling the origin of life. We

study life, observe its functions, contemplate its complexity (which

defies duplication even by intelligent men with the most advanced

methodology and technology), and what are we to conclude? Stonehenge

could have been produced by the erosion of a mountain, or by

catastrophic natural forces (like tornadoes or hurricanes) working in

conjunction with meteorites to produce rock formations and concentric

holes. But what television commentator, or practicing scientist, would

ever seriously entertain such a ridiculous idea? And what person with

any common sense would ever believe such a suggestion? Yet with the

creation of life---the intricate design of which makes Stonehenge look

like something a three-year-old child put together on a Saturday

afternoon in the middle of a blinding rainstorm using Mattel building

blocks---we are being asked to believe that such can be explained by

blind, mindless, accidental, physical processes without any intelligent

direction whatsoever. It is hardly surprising that Dr. Wysong should

observe, with obvious discomfort, that evolutionists ask us to "break

stride with what is natural to believe" in this regard. No one would

ever be convinced that Stonehenge "just happened." That is not an

adequate cause, and everyone recognizes such. Yet we are being asked

every day to believe that life "just happened." Such a conclusion is

both unwarranted and unreasonable. The cause is not adequate to produce

the effect.

It is this understanding of the implications of the law of

causality that has led some to attempt to discredit, or refuse to

accept, the universal principle of cause and effect. Perhaps the most

famous skeptic in this regard was the British empiricist, David Hume,

who is renowned for his antagonism to the principle of cause and

effect. However, as fervent as Hume was in his criticism, he never went

so far as to assert that cause and effect did not exist. He simply felt

that it was not empirically verifiable, and stemmed instead from `a

priori' considerations. Hume commented in a letter to John Stewart, "I

never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise

without a Cause: I only maintained, that our Certainty of the Falsehood

of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration;

but from another Source (see Greig, 1932, p 187, emp. and capital

letters in orig.). Even so rank an infidel as Hume did not deny cause

and effect.

Try as they might, skeptics are unable to circumvent this basic law

of science. Arguments other than those raised by Hume have been leveled

against it as well, of course. For example, one such argument insists

that the principle must be false because it is inconsistent with

itself. The argument goes something like this. The principle of cause

and effect says that everything must have a cause. On this concept, it

then traces all things back to a First Cause, where it suddenly stops.

But how may it consistently do so? Why does the principle that

everything needs a cause suddenly cease to be true? Why is it that this

so-called First Cause does not likewise need a cause? If everything

else needs an explanation, or a cause, why does this First Cause not

also need an explanation, or a cause? And if this First Cause does not

need an explanation, why, then, do all other things need one?

Such a complaint, however, is not a valid objection against the law

of causality; rather it is an objection to an incorrect statement of

that law. If someone were to say simply, "Everything must have a

cause," then the objection would be valid. But this is not what the law

of causality says. It plainly says that every material effect must have

a cause. As John H. Gerstner has correctly observed:

Because every effect must have a cause, there must

ultimately be one cause that is not an effect but pure

cause, or how, indeed, can one explain effects? A cause

that is itself an effect would not explain anything but

would require another explanation. That, in turn, would

require another explanation, and there would be a deadly

infinite regress. But the argument has shown that the

universe as we know it is an effect and cannot be self-

explanatory; it requires something to explain it which is

not, like itself, an effect. There must be an uncaused

cause. That point stands (1967, p 53).

Indeed, the point does stand. Science, and common sense, so

dictate. As Taylor has noted: "If, however, one professes to find no

difference between the relation of a cause to its effect, on the one

hand, and of an effect to its cause, on the other, he appears to

contradict the common sense of mankind, for the difference appears

perfectly apparent to most men..." (1967, p 66). It is refreshing, once

in a while, to see scholars finally get around to appealing to "common

sense," or that which is "perfectly apparent to most men." In the case

of the law of causality, it is "perfectly apparent" that every material

effect must have an adequate cause; common sense demands no less.


The Bible is filled with examples of the scientific concept of

cause and effect. In showing us how to reason from the effect back to

the cause, the Hebrew writer stated that "every house is built by

someone; but he that built all things is God" (3:4). Common sense

dictates that a house cannot build itself. As Dr. George Davis,

prominent physicist, has well stated, "No material thing can create

itself" (1958, p 71). Thus the house is an effect, which must then have

had a prior, adequate cause---a builder. The apostle Paul, speaking in

Romans 1:20, commented on the evidence for this very fact in regard to

the universe and its contents when he observed: "For the invisible

things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being

perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power

and divinity; that they may be without excuse." Paul correctly reasoned

from the effect to the cause, and wanted his readers to know that the

universe, like the house, is an effect and as such, must have had a

prior, adequate cause. Since the universe exhibits design, it must have

had a Designer; since it exhibits intelligence, the Designer must have

been intelligent; since it exhibits life, the Designer must have been

living; since it exhibits morality, the Designer must have been moral.

And so on. That Designer is God, said Paul, and even His "everlasting

power and divinity" (i.e., the cause) are obvious, "through the things

that are made" (i.e., the effect). There simply is no escaping the

implication of the law of causality as the Bible presents it.

Christ Himself reasoned from the effect back to the cause in the

case of the woman who suddenly appeared (uninvited) at the house of

Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). This woman approached Christ, shed

tears upon his feet as she kissed them, and then gently wiped away the

tears with her own hair. Simon, of course, was shocked; he could hardly

believe that the Lord would allow Himself to be touched by such a

woman. But, the Lord explained, her conduct was the result of her sins

having been forgiven on a previous occasion. Thus, her actions (the

effect) pointed back to a cause (forgiveness, and the gratitude it

engendered). On numerous occasions the Lord employed such powerful

logic to confound his enemies and refute their false concepts. [See

Wayne Jackson's two articles on "Logic and the Bible" in the `Christian

Courier' for an excellent discussion on this topic (1989,1990).]

Jesus declared that if a tree is good, it will bring forth good

fruit, but if it is evil, it will yield evil fruit (Matthew 7:17,18).

The Lord's point was this: if one knows the character of the cause, the

effects resulting from that cause are predictable. If we know that God

is good (Mark 10:18), we would expect that which God produces to be

good (at least in its original state). At the end of God's creation

week (Genesis 1:31), that is exactly what is stated. The creation was

"very good." On the other hand, Christ noted (Mark 7:21) that a corrupt

heart (i.e., evil thoughts---the cause) will result in such atrocities

as fornications, thefts, murders, etc. (the effect). Paul likewise made

the observation that when "there is no fear of God" among men, one may

expect deceit, violence, and misery in general (Romans 3:10-18). In

fact, Jesus spoke a parable about a judge who neither feared God nor

regarded man. It is not surprising, then, to discover that the judge

was "unrighteous" (Luke 18:2,6) and had little interest in dispensing

true justice. The effect logically followed from the cause.


Although critics have railed against, and evolutionists have

ignored, the law of cause and effect, it stands unassailed. Its central

message remains intact: every material effect must have an adequate

cause. Life in our magnificent universe is here; intelligence is here;

morality is here; love is here. What is their ultimate cause? Since the

effect can never precede, or be greater than the cause, it stands to

reason that the Cause of life must be a living Intelligence which

Itself is both moral and loving. When the Bible records, "In the

beginning, God...," it makes known to us just such a First Cause.


Davis, George E. (1958), "Scientific Revelations Point to a God," in

`The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe', ed. John C. Monsma

(New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons).

Gerstner, John H. (1967), `Reasons for Faith' (Grand Rapids, MI:


Greig, J.Y.T., ed. (1932), `Letters of David Hume' (Oxford: Oxford

University Press), 1:187.

Jackson, Wayne (1989,1990), "Logic and the Bible" (Parts I & II),

`Christian Courier', 25:29-36.

Jastrow, Robert (1977), `Until the Sun Dies' (New York: W.W. Norton


Meiklejohn, J.M.D., trans. (1878), Immanuel Kant, `Critique of Pure

Reason' (London).

Stace, W.T. (1934), `A Critical History of Greek Philosophy'


Taylor, Richard (1967), "Causation," in `The Encyclopedia of

Philosophy', ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan), 2:56-66.

von Mises, Richard (1951), `Positivism' (New York: Dover).

Wysong, R.L. (1976), `The Creation-Evolution Controversy' (East

Lansing, MI: Inquiry Press).


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Index - Evolution or Creation

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