July 25, 2014

Cosmological Arguments

So far, we've considered arguments for the existence of God from our desires, from teleology, and many from contingency. Now, let's look at the category of cosmological arguments.

This is an interesting group.  Cosmological arguments have to do with the cosmos--the universe as a whole--of course. But what about the cosmos?

Are we discussing it's fine tuning? That's teleology - that the cosmos seems to have design or purpose to it. We discussed that in The Argument from Design.

Are we discussing the beginning of the universe? That's contingency - including arguments from the beginning of existence.

We've already covered a lot of ground in this area! We'll look at a few more arguments based on cosmology, on the study of the universe.  One such is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It's an old argument for the existence of God, coming from the 800's AD. It argues for God as creator of the universe and so falls into the broad category of contingency arguments.

The Kalam has gotten considerable attention in recent years because of the work of Dr. William Lane Craig.  He has formulated it this way:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

He continues:
4. If the universe has a cause, it is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, unimaginably powerful, and personal.
5. Therefore, a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful.

We'll come back to his fourth and fifth points later on. Those are later, higher bricks in what we're building up; right now, we're concerned with God existing -- any old god that could make the universe (so to speak).

The first point, Dr. Craig often points out is intuitive. We go through our day expecting this to hold true--that everything we see has a cause. Everything that begins existing has a cause of that beginning. He likes to say that if universes just pop into existence from nothing, then why not "root beer, or bicycles or Beethoven"?  "What makes nothing so selective?" he asks.

Dr. Peter Kreeft expresses this in his discussions of contingency arguments, as well. He often points out that if you saw a rabbit just appear, you wouldn't say "oh well, rabbits just happen". You would look for a cause--a magic trick, a special affect, a mental or physical act.  You'd settle for "it's a miracle" (a supernatural cause) before "it just happened" (no cause at all).

The second point, Dr. Craig and others have explored in great detail. For now, we'll stick with a philosophical point that he has argued: that an actual infinite cannot exist. If there cannot be a real infinite, then the universe could not be infinite. It must have had a beginning.  (Later, we'll review some physical evidence for this, as well.)

If we accept those two points, then we must logically accept the conclusion.  If everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the universe began to exist, then the universe must have a cause.

Consider a diagram of those points:

We have a circle that contains all things that begin to exist. That's where we find all the root beer, bunnies, apologists, bloggers, and so forth.

There is also a circle representing everything that has a cause. If its true that everything in "begins to exist" must also be in "has a cause", then we have the diagram to the right.

The black dot represents the universe.*  Is there anywhere you could place that dot so that its in "has a cause" but not in "begins to exist"?  No.  If it begins to exist, then it also has a cause.  Thus, the universe (the black dot) must be in the category "has a cause".
* diagram not to scale

Dr. Craig describes the Kalam argument in more detail, as well as others, in his essay The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God.  His team also has a video up explaining The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Also, at StrangeNotions.com--the site for dialog between Catholics and atheists--Steven Dillon writes about how he came to accept Why Everything Must Have a Reason for Its Existence.

Next time, we'll consider support from physics as part of making a cosmological argument.

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