The Cosmological Argument

Its up and open to discussion at the new site LINK. but here it is here as well:

As always please read the introduction at the top of the atheism page before reading, thank you. Comments are open for two weeks but only only to address serious issues such grammar and spelling, logic issues or legal issues such as uncited works.

The Cosmological Argument:

The Cosmological Argument says that everything has a cause. Go back far enough and that cause must be God.

Historical:

The Cosmological Argument is rooted in Aristotle’s “Prime Mover’ in which he says:

there must be an immortal, unchanging being, ultimately responsible for all wholeness and orderliness in the sensible world.” Physics (VIII, 4–6) and Metaphysics (XII, 1–6).

Thomas Aquinas repeated this in his Quinque viae (5 Arguments in favor of the existence of God) and called it the Argument from Contingency. Contingency being: if God has metaphysical necessity, God’s existence is contingent; some reason is required for God’s own existence

“…that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence – which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God”

Leibniz (1646–1716) appealed to a strengthened principle of sufficient reason, according to which “no fact can be real or existing and no statement true without a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise” (Monadology, 32).

The basic cosmological argument today looks like the following:

  1. A contingent being (a being that if it exists can not-exist) exists.
  2. This contingent being has a cause of or explanation for its existence.
  3. The cause of or explanation for its existence is something other than the contingent being itself.
  4. What causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must either be solely other contingent beings or include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
  5. Contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account or explanation for the existence of a contingent being.
  6. Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
  7. Therefore, a necessary being (a being that if it exists cannot not-exist) exists. (Stanford 2004)

Or in more simple language

(1) Everything that exists has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe exists.
Therefore:
(3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
(4) If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
Therefore:
(5) God exists.

Objections

The simple Cosmological Argument is brought into question simply by asking ‘If everything has to have a cause what is the cause of God?’  Or ‘How do we know everything must have a cause?’ (See quantum physics objections below).’Why invoke a potentially nonexistent God to explain a universe which we know exists?’ (infidels.org) http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/cosmological.html

Bertrand Russell’s Objection

There have been several popular objections to the simple Cosmological Argument. Bertrand Russell said that the Universe just IS.  The Cosmological argument rests on the universe being contingent but Russell and others argue that this is a Fallacy of Composition which infers that a whole has the same properties as its individual parts.  As in the following example:

  1.   The bricks of the house are each 9”x4”x3”

Therefore,

  1.  The House is 9”x4”x3”

The Cosmological argument assumes that even if everything that makes up the universe must have a cause the universe must also have a cause.

David Hume’s First Objection

David Hume had a different objection, he felt that when the parts are explained that is enough to understand the whole. The problem boils down to one of the most famed philosophical questions ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Opponents of the cosmological argument say that this question makes no sense for it already assumes that there is something. Swinburne called this the completist fallacy.

Completist Fallacy: An explanation is complete when”any attempt to go beyond the factors which we have would result in no gain of explanatory power or prior probability” (Swinburne)

“What has necessary existence is causally independent. Matter has necessary existence, for though it undergoes change, the given volume of matter found in the universe persists, and as persisting matter does not have or need a cause. This accords with the Principle of Conservation of Mass-Energy, according to which matter and energy are never lost but rather transmute into each other. As indestructible, then, matter is the necessary being (147). Hence, though the material components of the universe are contingent vis-à-vis their form, they are necessary vis-à-vis their existence. On this reading, there is not one but many necessary beings, all internal to the universe.”

David Hume’s Second Objection

Hume also argued the Casual principle is not necessarily true a prori for we can conceive of things without conceiving of their cause and what is conceivable is possible in reality.  It’s wrong to assume that the universe complies with our need for order.  Some argue that that order and cause are necessary to understanding the universe but the principle has only methodological and not ontological justification.

“Clearly, the soundness of the deductive version of the cosmological argument hinges on whether principles such as that of Causation or Sufficient Reason are more than methodologically true and on the extent to which these principles can be applied.”

Lastly the conclusion itself is contradictory. Opponents claim that if God exists as in all possible worlds God could also not exist in all possible worlds; therefore God is logically contingent and so could have not existed. Causation and sufficient reason are applicable to the necessary being. Supporters of the Cosmological argument say that causation and sufficient reason does not deal with logical contingency but metaphysical contingency.

“In short, defenders of the cosmological argument defend the Causal Principle (or alternatively Principle of Sufficient Reason), but limit its application to contingent beings, whereas critics of the argument either question these principles or want to apply them to the necessary being.” Standford

The second and most popular cosmological argument was first formulated by early Islamic thinkers and is called the Kalam Argument. It goes as follows:

The Kalam Argument

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
  4. Since no scientific explanation can provide a cause for the Universe that cause must be personal (God)

This was made popular in recent years by William Lane Craig

Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause of existence

Quatum Physics Objections

In addition to the objections to the casual principle (everything has a cause) talked about above quantum physics also shows some problems with causality. Here are two popular ones:

1.  Time and space has no beginning: The Universe, though temporal, it has no boundaries and so in a sense no beginning. To put it simply, space and time itself started at the big bang and so anything before the Big Bang would have to exist outside of time and space. Stephen Hawking’s objection to the existence of God as a creator is that God is not needed according to cosmology:

 ”Because there are laws such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

 2.    Particle behaviour:  Physicists have discovered that electrons can pass out of existence at one point and spontaneously reappear at another.  It also appears that photons can appear at two places at once. No one can determine the cause of the duplicate electron spontaneously appearing or how a photon can exist in two places at once. These things suggest that causality is not necessarily universally applied.

Defenders of the cosmological argument object by applying Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle ( the mere act of trying to measure or observe particles changes their state) but then the argument rests deeper issues of  the epistemic and ontological status of quantum indeterminacy and the nature of the Big Bang as a quantum phenomenon. In short, it rests on unanswered question in physics and cosmology and hence becomes a God of the Gaps fallacy (We don’t know X and so therefore X must be God)

Premise 2: The Universe began to exist

Defenders argue that it is intuitively obvious that the Universe had a beginning.  They maintain if all of space and time originated at the Big Bang the universe is temporally finite and thus had a beginning. Critics maintain the following objections:

The Big Bang is Not an Event: As stated above time and space was created at the Big Bang and so there can be nothing before it. Even though the universe is finite in respect to the past as Stephen Hawking points out the universe has no space-time boundaries and so lacks a singularity and a beginning and without a beginning the universe requires no cause.

Conclusion

Cosmological arguments are popular because they involve sophisticated subjects with unanswered questions and so it easy to argue God’s existence by invoking the God of the Gaps. Until science can explain absolutely everything apologists will be able to defend the existence of a personal god in this manner. So whether or not this Cosmological argument is convincing depends on whether one wants to invoke God as an explanation to unknowns or not.

Some reading:

  1. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/#2
  2. http://philofreligion.homestead.com/files/cosmologicalargument.html
  3. http://www.dbskeptic.com/2009/03/15/a-critical-examination-of-the-kalam-cosmological-argument/
  4. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/cosmological.html#quantum
Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s