Cosmological argument

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The cosmological argument is an argument for God based on the principle that everything has a cause. The argument is also know as the first cause argument, uncaused cause argument, argument from existence and the causal argument. One of the most influential statements of the argument was by Thomas Aquinas:

"Nothing is caused by itself. Every effect has a prior cause. This leads to a regress. This has to be terminated by a first cause, which we call God."

There are some popular variants of the cosmological argument, including:


Formal Argument

The argument runs like this:

  1. Everything that exists must have a cause.
  2. If you follow the chain of events backwards through time, it cannot go back infinitely, so eventually you arrive at the first cause.
  3. This cause must, itself, be uncaused.
  4. But nothing can exist without a cause, except for God.
  5. Therefore, God exists.


Many of the criticisms of the Unmoved mover argument apply here.

Infinite regress

Main Article: Infinite regress does not occur

The most concise answer to this argument is: "Who created God?", which in turn raises the question "Who created God's creator?", and so on ad infinitum. This known as an infinite regress or "It's turtles all the way down".

It is not necessarily impossible for there to be an infinite chain of causes and effects. Among scientists, it is widely agreed that our universe began with the Big Bang. but we don't know what occurred in the first split second after the Big Bang, nor can we comment on anything that came before it, as no experiments have yet been devised that could test any hypotheses about these early moments. (For further discussion on this topic, see the Big Bang article.)

Some have claimed that with an infinite past, we could never get to now. Flip the infinity: does an infinity of seconds not stretch forward into the future, eternally? Starting from an infinite future, can you go a second before that, and a second before that, ad infinitum, and get to now?

Possible response: Second law of thermodynamics implies the universe is of finite age

Why assume the first cause is god-like?

Main Article: Which god?

Natural processes and multiple creators are not ruled out.

Even if we grant that a first cause exists, it makes no sense to assume that it is any kind of god, let alone Yahweh. The idea of an intelligent, universe-creating god "just existing" is far more difficult to explain than the universe itself "just existing". Intelligence is one of the most complex things we are aware of in the universe. To assume the existence of a being who is so intelligent that it can design an entire universe, as well as micromanage the personal lives of billions of people on earth through prayer, would require an enormous amount of explanation.

Special pleading regarding God existing outside of time

There is a contradiction between the first statement and the second statement. If "everything that exists has a cause" then there cannot exist anything that does not have a cause, which means that there is no first cause. Either some things can exist without causes, or nothing can. It can't be both ways. God is considered to be exempt from infinite regress by special pleading.

Changing "Everything that exists has a cause" to "Everything that begins to exist has a cause" produces a variant known as the Kalam cosmological argument.

Christians try to avoid regress of God by saying "God does not need a cause because He is outside of time." This is a glib non-answer. If all that is required to get around the first cause argument is an entity that exists outside of time, then all we need to do is postulate a single particle that exists outside of time and triggered the Big Bang. It need not have any additional powers. Besides, this particle might even exist, depending on how you define "outside of time." Photons (light particles) do not experience time, since they move at the speed of light. Therefore, according to this argument, light can pop into existence without cause.

Theists will object that this particle should have a cause. But they have already refuted this argument by granting that there exists an uncaused cause in the first place. If God can exist without a cause, why not a particle? Why not the universe? It may be the universe is the necessarily existent being and it is impossible for it to be in any other state.

Not all events necessarily have causes

Main Article: Not all events necessarily have causes

The argument asserts that "everything that exists has a cause". However, this is arguably a false statement and a hasty generalization. It is possible that some events, particular on the quantum scale, do not have causes (or at least we do not fully understand the cause at this time).

Some versions of the cosmological argument rely on chains of explanations starting from observed phenomena. However, no such explanation may exist and the phenomena might be a "brute fact". This is known as the Glendower problem.

Unparsimonious explanation

Main Article: Ultimate 747 gambit

The God hypothesis is not only unnecessary, it is not parsimonious. In order to explain something apparently designed and which cannot create itself, a being is conjured into existence which would require even more unlikely explanation.

A-priori arguments cannot establish matters of fact

Main Article: Proof by logic

Overall, this argument is an example of a proof by logic, where philosophers attempt to "demonstrate" god with a logical syllogism alone, devoid of any confirming evidence. This is arguably inappropriate for establishing matters of fact.

See also

v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argumentum ad populum · Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from goodness · Argument from desire · Argument from the origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Sensus divinitatis · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Personal revelation · Argument from observed miracles · Argument from personal experience · Consciousness argument for the existence of God · Emotional pleas
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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