The Cosmological argument


(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

I was listening to this debate between Rabbi Daniel Rowe and Atheist Professor A.C. Grayling. Rowe gave what I believe is the greatest explanation of the Cosmological Argument I’ve encountered, and I agree with him that Laurence Krauss’ argument about ‘nothing’ is rather weak, since quantum fluctuations still need an explanation according to a theist using the argument. Still I find the Cosmological argument unconvincing for the simple reason that we don’t know that everything in the universe needs a cause, since we have only discovered a relatively small proportion of the universe.

Thoughts?


(Dominik Kowalski) #2

Maybe you have to give me the gist of what Rowe said, I´m hesitant to listen to a full debate. But there are still things to say:

This here is the perfect example of contemporary philosophy neglecting an argument because a strawman is attacked. The people who mention in their work the cosmological argument contionously refute an absolute strawman.
“Everything has a cause.”
Said absolutely no theologian ever. Seriously try to find only one wider known theologian, ancient or modern who made that argument. Problems to find someone? No wonder, it is believed that this originated with David Hume and it since spread all over secular philosophy. Even philosophers like Bertrand Russell, fantastic in logic, hopeless in religion, commit that mistake in his book “Why I´m not a Christian”. For the philosopher of religion the claim that the cosmological is “Everything has a cause” is similar to the creationist claiming that the argument from evolution is that at one point in history an ape gave birth to a human.
Then my next point. There is no one cosmological argument there are several. Craigs favoured Kalam Cosmological argument for God as the beginning of time is one, but I´m not a fan. Aquinas´ arguments from motion, causaton, contingency, degrees and teleology are all cosmological arguments and since they are valid and sound, because I accept the premise and the consequences outlined are logical, I accept his conclusion. Since I made the argument for @AndrewF for his question of rational reasons, here is the premise of the first way:

Change occurs. Change is the potentiality of a thing to become actual and thus changing its state. In order to have its potencies actualized a thing needs another thing, which is alredy actual to actualize it.

Example: The coffee in the mug has the potential to become cold. In order for it to become cold it needs the air surrounding it, which is already actually cold, to actualize that potential and thus change the state of the coffee.

If I had Feser´s book around me I just would have quoted it. Now I had to formulate it myself, but I think I have summarized it the right way. So there is no argument that everything needs a cause. Aristotle and Aquinas would have both rejected it as a stupid argument. And both also accepted an eternal universe, so they also didn´t champion the Kalam Cosmological argument.

His arguments basically boiled down to “The universe can come from nothing. Just add a little something to it.” Honestly if Jerry Coyne points out philosophical weaknesses in your work, its time to go home. Also I thin the best treatment of that work was by David Albert.


(Randy) #3

I’m confused–I have no background in philosophy, so am out of my depth; but what about the Kalam argument with William Lane Craig? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument

Quote from Wikipedia:

"Craig states the Kalam cosmological argument as a brief syllogism, most commonly rendered as follows:[5]
1.Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
2.The universe began to exist; Therefore:
3.The universe has a cause.

From the conclusion of the initial syllogism, he appends a further premise and conclusion based upon ontological analysis of the properties of the cause:[6]
1.The universe has a cause;
2.If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists who sans (without) the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful; Therefore:
3.An uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and infinitely powerful.

Referring to the implications of Classical Theism that follow from this argument, Craig writes:
“… transcending the entire universe there exists a cause which brought the universe into being ex nihilo … our whole universe was caused to exist by something beyond it and greater than it. For it is no secret that one of the most important conceptions of what theists mean by ‘God’ is Creator of heaven and earth.”[7]"

I don’t agree with Craig (though he is way smarter than I am), but I thought that was his premise. Thanks for your expertise!


(Dominik Kowalski) #4

That is correct Randy. That´s Craigs argument because since the big bang cosmology philosophers of religion can refer to a beginning of time to construe an argument. I personally don´t like it, because, different to Aquinas Five ways, we don´t get a safe picture on some of the divine attributes the first cause has to have, if we only apply the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Craigs argument gets you to a deistic God, Aquinas to Theism. According to Quentin Smith, the Kalam Cosmological argument is the cosmological argument that gets the most defense in the philosophical literature. And it´s not even the best one.
The “Everything has a cause” caricature is found in massive numbers in secular literature. People refer to other people who claimed that this is the argument and this person got it from another secondary sourc and noone actually bothers to read the primary source. This is a below undergraduate mistake and you find these in the works of the most well known philosophers of the 20th century like Bertrand Russell, but also in the works of Daniel Dennett, Simon Blackburn and Raymond Le Poidevin and, because the get refered to often, it is a snowball system of philosophical illiteracy. Students really go into university and get told that this is the kind of philosophical arguments theists are making in favor of their position. That is why the work of Edward Feser, Mortimer Adler and Keith Ward among others are bringing such a fresh wind into the academia, because people get confronted with the old arguments, that the greatest thinkers of the church and of other times (Like Aristotle and Plato) made to argue for Gods existence and/or his attributes. Unfortunately, I take Adler´s estimation here, it takes several years (he said 10) to really get into what the philosophers of that time were really arguing, because we lost this sense of philosophy and we have to relearn it. This is also the reason why there is no atheistic philosopher of religion who is deeply involved within Thomistic school of thought and you get rudimentary knowledge at best. However I think it is worthwhile, as this is the thought system that makes the most sense of the world by far, because it works with the same metaphysics that we apply to science.

This is the biggest problem for Craig to defend properly. Because academic philosophy is in a paltry state, he is the shootingstar of debates, but this conclusion is, again different to the ones Aquinas made, only one of many. Craig puts the personal aspects of the God he defends so early into his argument, that it looks like a presupposition. For me this is a mistake. He can´t conclusively deny, that this allows for a deistic deity who left his creation.

This is important, so you can remember this: Craig is not a classical theist. Because classical theism sees God as pure actuality who can´t change because he is perfect, one of the most important aspects is divine simplicity. God is the first cause and as such he can´t be made up of parts ( The Trinity doesn´t interfere with that, mind you). Craig denies that and sees God as being made up of different parts, however I would argue that this leads to the parts being more necessary, because God relies upon them, which can´t possibly make him the first cause. You could argue that the Kalam Cosmological argument argues for the existence of a spirit, but this spirit has to rely on an even more necessary being which makes it possible for the spirit to be composed of parts. It´s an abstract concept if you haven´t been confronted with it already, but I hope you understand what you mean. Of course questions are getting answered.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #5

Does this apply for everything in the universe which we haven’t discovered yet?


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #6

Science is based on the fact that the universe is the same throughout. In other words if light followed different rules in each galaxy then all of our scientific knowledge about outer space would be false.

The fact that everything has a cause is a scientific statement, as well as a philosophical and theological statement. The only exception being God Who is not a thing, or has on physical cause. God is the Source of the universe.

The fact today is the universe has a beginning, which we call the Big Bang. No one can say from whence the Big Bang came, unless it came from God, Who is I AM WHO AM, and Who is by definition without beginning or self created.


(Marvin Adams) #7

Every thing has a cause would declare that every physical entity e.g. “thing” has a cause. That is the whole point of creation. As such I am actually in agreement that the universe came from no-thing, as God is not a thing.
As far as our understanding about the universe goes it appears that a past eternal material universe is not underpinned by our current understanding of reality, so it points to a beginning of the material universe.
With God being the essence of existence, e.g. time transcendent or eternal he would not be permitted to have a beginning by definition. If he were time dependent he would not fit the bill to be God.


(Dominik Kowalski) #8

@Reggie_O_Donoghue
Give me one or two days. Your question is not too hard to answer, because supporting this would be questioning scientific discoveries we would already have. It requires a bit of stage-setting.

The first cause can´t in principle be material, this is correct (if anyone is interested, look up divine conservation), but you still have to be careful to not change the meaning attached to words too much, because you seem to equalize “thing” with something material, but it also applies to spirits which are composed of many parts, as their existence rely upon a necessary being which has to be simple, meaning one.

That is correct. But the strength of the cosmological arguments of the Thomistic philosophy is that even if the other participant of a discussion champions an eternal multiverse, you could just concede it for the sake of the argument without loosing anything. Serieses per accidens (the time dependend one) can be eternal, Serieses per se can´t be because the causal power has to root into a first cause necessarily in order to give objects on higher ranks in the hierarchy the power to change anything.

The first cause, because he is purely actual, is necessarily eternal, because if he wouldn´t he would have the potency to change, which wouldn´t make him the first cause, because he would be dependend on a more necessary being.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9

@Reggie_O_Donoghue

First of all I question the existence of spiritual beings “which are composed of many parts.” Angels would seem to be the prime example, but angels are really extensions of God or the Holy Spirit and I re4ally think that heir separate existence is very problematic.

On the other hand the Christian God is both One and Many, that is the Trinity, so the Christian God is NOT Simple, although many people seem to think so.

I do not think that God is properly understood as the '“essence of existence” because this sounds to me that the universe would be a part of God, pantheism, not Christianity. The universe is in some sense dependent on God, but separate from God.


(Dominik Kowalski) #10

Necessarily yes, if it applies here and now, it will appear everywhere at every time. Metaphysics aren´t location-bound, but an all-or-nothing explanation of the realtionship of the different grounds of reality and their relationship. This is a horrible mouthful, so to explain it in more understandable forms, metaphysics are the laws that underlie reality and thus are even more fundamental than the laws of physics that we know of. So if the principle of causality which you quoted applies here, it necessarily has to apply at every corner of the universe, if it doesn´t apply there, it doesn´t apply here. This will also lead to the conclusion, that if we discovered a hypothetical part of the universe which only contained unknown particles and none of those known to us, we would conclude that this part also underlies the logical principles of change and causality, because “brute facts” with no explanation in principle for their existence and/or attributes are unknown to us and logically impossible and incoherent, if we believe, and I´d argue that we would have every reason to, given our scientific and technological progress, as well as our ability to predict particles with mathematical models, which are verified later (the best example would be the Higgs-Boson), that we discover real and objective facts about the universe. Like I mentioned, we would come to that presuppositionn intuitively because of our experiences thus far, but also logically, because one of the metaphysical presuppositions in science is exactly the causality principle you quoted.

For the sake of it let´s imagine a universe where the principle doesn´t apply. The brute fact would make it impossible to let arise a structure which has more than the mere appearance of rationality, because, we have seen, that the brute fact has no explanation for any of its attributes, which would lead to no explanation of the attributes of other things. In fact, we would have to expect that there would be no uniformity of the attributes of the same things (e.g. the mass of protons, the electrical charge of an electron). Why? Because the things always exist in reference to the brute fact and are even relying on it, but that would also mean that there would be no possible explanation for their appearance in principle, which also includes these attributes being constants. Either way, what we would have discovered so far and will in the future would be mere appearances of rationality, but unable to give us any fundamental facts about the universe. Another fact: If the universe´s structure isn´t rational, that would include our brain, which would make us unable to get any more facts, since we can´t ever be sure if the conclusion we have reached could ever be right, because the methods aren´t trusthworthy since they are used or have been set up by an irrational mind. The circularity of that approach should be obvious, cognitive skepticism stops any progress and I would argue that this exact progress which obviously enabled us to alter our environment for the better (technology) or worse (pollution and trash), which has been built upon a mathematics which presupposed its own rationality, is a good enough refutation of the approach of cognitive skeptics and proponents of brute facts. Once again a phrase I love applies: Their position gives birth to the skepticism of their own position.These can´t be reached by any possible logical or rational analysis, but if they would be right, we would only know by luck.


(Melissa Kay) #11

Nothing is better understood using the synonymous term preexistence.

First, i have a saying and it goes like this:

Nothing is real
Nothing exists
Nothing is something
And it exists

So, i just gave you the better word which is preexistence. In the time, place and space from which the universe explodes into existence, EVERYTHING EXISTS. It just does not exist physically. Everything exists immaterially. Everything exists as thought, information and memory.

Even the statue of liberty exists, and Yahoo! exists, and birds, and the earth, and people (like me, hello).

Consciousness exists before the universe does. And consciousness is not a product of the brain. Within consciousness are identities, which i also call points or agents. I’m the oldest being i know, existing utterly and completely alone, but then others begin to exist (from within the container, you see).

Understand?


Yeah, i AM the “no” thing. It is extremely cruel. I am unable to forgive it.

I have been mercilessly deprived of life. I have been given an overabundance of “no”. I’m not allowed to have freedom, free will and rights like all of you have. It’s quite very severely cruel and merciless.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #12

I AM is not a thing, but is not nothing. Nothing has no time, no space, no structure, no existence. I AM has existence because I AM is the Source of Existence, the Source of Time, the Source of Space, the Source of Structure.

I AM does not exist alone, but with the Son and the Spirit. All of reality is worked out through these Three so it does not exist forever. I AM is free to do whatever I AM chooses to do and I AM chooses to Love so I AM has freedom, free will, and rights and freely shares God’s joy and peace with us. .


(system) closed #14

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