The effect is never greater than the cause

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In some variants of the cosmological argument, apologists may assert that "effect is never greater than the cause". The idea goes back to at least René Descartes. [1] The main reason for introducing this premise is to support the cosmological argument and to show that the "first cause" of the universe is a powerful entity.

"Material effects without adequate causes do not exist. Also, causes never occur after the effect. In addition, the effect never is greater than the cause. That is why scientists say that every material effect must have an adequate cause. [2]"
"Remembering the Law of Cause and Effect, which is that every effect has a sufficient greater cause. [...] The creator must have all power to be the great original cause for the grand effect of the Universe. [3]"

It may also be used to attack naturalism:

"For example, if you remove God from the equation, then you must conclude that everything comes from nothing -- that life comes from non-life -- that order comes from chaos -- that natural law comes from randomness. Essentially, you must conclude that the effect is greater than the cause. [4]"

Contents

Other uses

The impossibility of intelligence arising by natural processes:

"If an effect cannot be greater than its cause (since you can’t give what you do not have to give), then does it not make more sense that mind produced matter than that matter produced mind, as atheists say?"

Norman Geisler[5]
"The atheists/Darwinists/materialists believe, by faith, that our minds arose from mindless matter without intelligent intervention. We say it is by faith because it contradicts all scientific observation, which demonstrates that an effect cannot be greater than its cause.[6]"

This principle is not a scientific one. Therefore, it is scientific to simply ignore it.

Counter arguments

Ill defined terminology

What the apologist means by "greater" is unclear.

"No effect is greater than its cause. Here I use "greater" in the sense of "more remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness." [7]"

How is this reliably determined or measured? Since it is based on subjective standards, it is difficult to gather solid evidence to support the principle or to apply it consistently.

Infinite regress

By this principle, God must have a greater cause. This is an infinite regress and is typically avoided by the apologist using special pleading.

Counter example

"Imagine an avalanche. Dropping of a tiny pebble can cause boulders to go careening down a hillside. Therefore, an effect can be greater than the cause.[7]"

In this case, the apologist may point to the many other causes that contributed to the avalanche. This is possible because the concepts are ill defined.

"Humans evolved from single-celled organisms. Humans are greater than single-celled organisms, so the effect is greater than the cause.[7]"

Apologists argue against this by moving the goalposts to entropy, as well as saying a human soul requires more than natural processes.

See also

References

  1. A. C. Lloyd, The Principle That the Cause Is Greater than Its Effect, Phronesis, Vol. 21, No. 2 (1976), pp. 146-156
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. [4]
  6. I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 [5]
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