Tag Archives: cause

Refutation: Brett’s Objection to the Cosmological Argument

I’d like to give a big shout out Brett for posting an objection to the Cosmologial Argument.  We love getting responses!  I’m going to take the first crack at answering it- though I’m sure Payton will come along and yell at everyone since the Cosmological Argument is his baby.

Brett writes,

“If the universe never had a cause for its existence, if it never began to exist, but it exists now, then it is infinite. Given infinite time, every possibility is allowed to be actualized, including the possibility for everything to cease to exist. ”

Please explain how that same argument doesn’t apply to the “eternal cause” of the universe.”

The concern he raises rises from the misuse of “eternal” and “infinite”. They are not synonyms. Something that is eternal IS forever- it cannot change. If I am eternally turning on a lightbulb, then I can never turn it off- time is not even a relevant concept in eternity. It is forever in the present tense- it wasn’t, and it won’t be- eternity is.

Meanwhile, infinity is an inconceivably large measure, in this case applied to time. I think that infinite may not have been the best word choice, but it is the word used here, and in all other versions of this argument, so I’ll do my best to explain the difference. Infinity describes a material object or effect. Since infinite time is just an endless amount of time, the effects of time can take place on an object. It is entirely possible for all the atoms of a planet to simultaneously repel each other, or for two comets to collide and form a Bengal tiger, since there are infinite chances for these things to occur. It is also possible for all of the particles in the universe to explode.

God, or the “eternal cause”, is eternal in time, and infinite in space. Thus He (or it) is infinitely larger than the universe, but is unchanged by the passing of time.

Now, how do we know that the universe isn’t eternal? It began- something that is eternal just is , with no beginning. And I am not being a whacktacular fundie for asserting the universe had a beginning; virtually all modern science confirms the universe began to exist.
“It’s also common knowledge that the universe isn’t eternal but had a beginning ten to twenty billion years ago, and that it is expanding.” (Kitty Ferguson, The Fire in the Equations, 1994, p. 89)
“Now three lines of evidence—the motions of the galaxies, the laws of thermodynamics, and the life story of the stars—pointed to one conclusion; all indicated that the Universe had a beginning” (Dr. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 1978, p. 111) (Note: Despite his book’s title, Dr. Jastrow is an evolutionary astronomer, an agnostic, and at best a deist)
“It was apparent that matter could not be eternal, because, as everyone knows, eternal things do not run down.” (Dr. Bert Johnson, So Long Eternal Universe; Hello Beginning, Hello End!, 2001)

Therefore, since the universe is demonstratabely not eternal, even if it is infinite, arguments that apply to it cannot apply to an eternal being or cause.

Sincerely,
Sarah

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Filed under Cosmology, Refutation

Refutation: “Logical Analysis of the Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God”

the_press_thinks_youre_an_idiotI HAVE FOUND AN obviously illogical analysis of the Cosmological Argument on someone else’s blog, and surprisingly, it is well organized, grammatically correct, and the author has excellent command of literary conventions.  This is good.  Usually, when e-atheists attempt to dissect a theistic argument, they won’t be nearly so clean and neat about it.  Of course, many are, but this is the first I’ve seen on a blog.  Unfortunately, he got the argument wrong, so it’s no wonder he was able to refute it.  I’ll commend him in this regard.  He was able to refute a faulty and illogical version of the Cosmological Argument.  NOTE TO INTERNET ATHEISTS:  I’m not trying to be condescending, but if you find yourself able to refute a famous theistic argument that’s been around for millenia, invented and propagated by Plato, Aristotle, or Socrates, and expounded by philosophers of every culture regardless of religion, chances are you misunderstood or misrepresented the argument.  Yes, it will likely be possible for you to refute recent arguments concocted by wannabe-apologists, but when you claim to have refuted a 2,000 year old argument of classical philosophy, you ought to be careful.  Ask yourself: Am I reallyso much smarter than every other philosopher of the last couple centuries that I alone have found the problem with “x” argument?  Why has no-one else in the last 2,000 years seen this contradiction/problem/fallacy?  If I don’t have an answer to the last questions, why is it that people much smarter than me have confidently presented “x” argument over the years as if nothing were the matter?  These questions make one thing obvious to the honest atheist, either he is a very great snob, or  a very great fool, or the Christian philosophers are all very wicked liars.

 The only reason I call his article obviously illogical is because he sets out to analyze the Cosmological Argument, but actually analyzes an illogical convolution of it that he got from the the GeoChristian Blog.  I shall have to email the GeoChristian himself and inform him of what he has done (inadvertently so, I’m certain, as he seems respectable enough).  However, our little e-atheist here has done what a philosopher would call a “misrepresentation” of an argument.  He claimed to refute one thing, which he calls the Cosmological Argument (mistakenly so), but actually refuted another thing (not the “real” cosmological argument)

http://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/logical-analysis-of-the-cosmological-argument-for-the-existence-of-god/

To begin, however, I must state as a matter of simple fact, that I have done a better job explaining the Cosmological Argument than has the GeoChristian.  I mean no insult to him.  Perhaps he did not orient his article to adorable little e-atheists with telescopes, I don’t know.

At the start, he misrepresents the major-premise of the argument as “Everything needs a cause”.  This is patently absurd, and he tarnishes his own image by proposing to analyze a Cosmological Argument and then throwing forth this madness.  Any idiot can see that this premise lends itself necessarily to an infinite regression of causes, which is plainly illogical.  (If you happen to not be familiar with deep, mysterious, and complicated philosophical terms like “illogical”, because you just so happen to be a silly little e-infidel who plays around with telescopes but tries to talk like he’s played around with Voltaire, you should read my post on the Argument)Actually, the major premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is, “Everything which begins to exist must have a cause”.  Not only is this assertion intuitively plausible, but it is also reinforced by every last scientific observation of any event in the history or future of the universe.  And that’s not an exaggeration.  I mean literally everything we have seen begin to exist has had cause for its existence. Chairs, tables, stars, cells, animals, anything that begins to exist, you name it, it has a cause (for the above: craftsmen or factories, nebulae, mitosis or meiosis, and reproduction, in that order).

Secondly, he says this.  Mind you, he’s not a philosopher, but an astronomer.

“From a philosophical argument, there really doesn’t need to be an explanation for why something exists.”

Actually, there does.  It’s called the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and it is the foundation of the scientific method.  Note how astronomy is also a science! 

Does he want me to prove the principle of sufficient reason?  I’m not exactly sure if I can.   Go out and look at things though.  Black holes, cheap labor, trees, Bill Clinton, antidisestablishmentarianism, you name it.  You will be able to find a reason for their existence if you look for it.  That’s a strong deductive argument, if I’m not mistaken (I’m not mistaken, mind you) Especially if everything one goes out to find turns out to have sufficient reason for its existence, and one is rendered incapable of finding anything which exists just ’cause. (This is exactly what will happen if you go out looking for pointless objects which haven’t even the slightest reason for existing, so don’t bother)

Now, dearest Mr Cosmo-Doubt says there doesn’t need to be an  for why something exists.  Tell me, when he looks through his telescope and sees an image of the Tau-Ceti system through the lens, what does he think?  If there really doesn’t have to be a reason for something to exist, any attempt on his part to conclude that the cause of the image in his telescope is the actual Tau Ceti system is entirely without warrant.  After all, his glimpse of the system doesn’t mean the system actually exists!  It could exist for no reason at all, according to Uglyface McPoopnose! (I ran out of clever names)

Everything which exists has sufficient reason for its existence in and of itself (which is to say, in its nature), or not in and of itself (which is to say, something else).  In other words, when you have something which exists, it either exists because it is in its nature to exist, or because something else made it exist.

He goes on to say, later on in his article, that something could exist “just ’cause”.  Indeed, I would agree, in a sense.   But not really.  I agree with his statement, but not what he means by it. He really hasn’t a clue what that sentence means.  A thing may exist because it is in its nature to be existing.  What this means is that it is impossible for it notto exist.  It exists in every possible world.  But you can plainly see that he does not mean this.  But that is the only option he’s got!  Aside from saying a thing which exists has an external cause for existing (Arrrgh! This be what he’s trying to avoid, lad!) he can only say the above.  There is no other option.

Besides, if things don’t need to have a cause to just mosey on into existence, what’s to stop a giant tiger from “beginning to exist” right in front of my face at this precise instant?  God knows it can’t be needing a cause!  Otherwise we’d be theists!

Or, God forbid, what’s there to stop God from existing right in front of me at this precise instant, hm? If our astro-skeptic maintains that there does not have to be an explanation for something’s existence, I can simply claim that God happens to exist right here in my room, and if he asks me to prove it (explain His existence) I’ll just say He exists just ’cause, so I don’t need to justify my belief, and be done with it! 

So, our little atheo-naut has two choices: thing’s need explanantions, or they don’t.  Either way, I can be right.

I’ll stop there, if you don’t mind.  I don’t need to do a point by point refutation of his entire article, sentence by sentence.  I undermined his major-premise and thus blew his whole essay out of the water.  I’ll sum it up. 

1.) He got the Cosmological argument wrong, that’s not what it actually says.

2.) He was wrong about causation, and he really believes in premise 2 of the Kalam Cosmological Argument deep down.  It’s fundamental to his field. 

3.) His assertion that things don’t require suffiecient reason for their existence is contradicted by mainstream science and metaphysics, and its everyday application leads to obvious absurdities.

4.) If he agrees with the principle of sufficient reason, God’s existence follows logically through the Kalam Argument, and if he disagrees with the principle, un-justified belief in God is warranted to the believer.

So he’s wrong four main ways at least…lovely.

-Payton

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Filed under Christian Arguments, Cosmology, Refutation

Cosmological Argument

2723284090_b1fa3a8521THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT is an attempt to prove that the universe must have been caused by something which, among other things, was not itself caused.  The obvious upside to this lies in the attributes of the Uncaused-Cause one may derive from the Cosmological Arguments. There are several known variations of the Cosmological Argument.  They are; the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Contingency, Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas, and my Expanded Cosmological Argument.

Obviously, to begin with, one must count up his options, right?  In this question, there are only the two main options of believing the universe to be caused, or not.  Very well.  How much can be said about the two? Either:

a.) The Universe was not caused (does not actually exist now)

b.) The Universe was not caused (came from nothing)

c.) The Universe was not caused (has always been here)

d.) The Universe was caused (finite, has not always been, nor will always be)

To begin, the first option contradicts observation.  The observation in question being that the universe exists.  We can see it, touch it, taste it, hear it, and smell it even.  So, it seems logical to suppose that it exists, right?  Quite so, at first glance.  However, certain famous nuisances have come up with the idea that we could very well be just like brains-in-vats.  This concept is called solipsism, and is the notion that nothing is real but yourself; that the universe is illusory.  People have tried, and tried, and tried to push this idea through the population at large with little success over that last few centuries, and most every other time it pops up under a new name.  Now for the sake of coherence within this blog, I shall call these illusion doctrines, the Matrix Theory.  A key thing to note is that the Matrix Theories, though having different names, always fall prey to the same refutations.   The only one you’ll need to use however, with regard to the Cosmological Argument, is a double-weapon composed of Leibniz’ Principle of Sufficient Reason, and the notion of Self-Consciousness.  Simply put; everything requires an explanation, yourself incuded.  If you’re just in the matrix, and you say that nothing really exists, YOU are forgetting the fact that YOU are in the matrix, and YOU say that nothing exists.  You yourself require a reason for your existence.

The next option, which dictates that the universe came from nothing and by nothing, is implausible.  We see things in the universe which have reasons for their existence and/or state of being.  Indeed, everything we see in the universe has sufficient reason for its existence.  The universe is merely an expansion of space, time, and matter.  These are things, in fact.  However, since time and space are a bit more difficult to quantify and conceive than matter, I will ask you to understand that the three together behave in the much same way with regard to causality as matter alone.  So we see that all the material objects (plants, animals, planets etc…) in the universe requires sufficient reason for its existence, but what exactly is meant by all matter?  The universe is matter.  It is things:

All things require sufficient reason for their existence = The universe requires sufficient reason for its existence.

So, if it cannot have come from nothing, by nothing, does it still need a cause for it’s existence? Could it not have simply always existed?  Well, if by always, one means “at all times” then you would be absolutely right.  As with matter above, the universe is time and/or time is the universe.  However, if by always one means infinite, then you would be absolutely wrong.  If the universe never had a cause for its existence, if it never began to exist, but it exists now, then it is infinite.  Given infinite time, every possibility is allowed to be actualized, including the possibility for everything to cease to exist.  If then, the universe has already existed for an infinite time, then why hasn’t everything ceased to exist?  Follow that out.

Now the last option is that the universe was caused: that it has not forever been, nor will forever be.  Seeing as how the universe obviously exists, and this is our last option, it is either right, or I have overlooked a possible option.  Try me.

So, according to the third refutation, it is impossible to have an infinite regress of causes. For more reasons behind this notion, see the links at the bottom.  However, there are the actual presentations of the Cosmological Arguments themselves to be shown.  Very well, then.:

I have already presented an explanatory version of the Argument from Contingency above, and my extended Cosmological Argument is an expansion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, I shall present my Expanded Argument, and then paste the Five Ways.

EXPANDED COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT

1 Everything which begins to exist must have a cause for its existence.

1.2 The universe began to exist

1.3 Therefore the universe had a cause for its existence

2 The universe is primarily the expansion of time, space and matter

2.1 Therefore time, space and matter were caused.

3 An effect may be no greater than its proper cause

3.1 A thing may not cause itself to exist

3.2 Therefore the cause of the universe is eternal and immaterial.

4 Only a free-agent is able to produce real change (greater change) either through time, space and matter, in its creation, or in its annihilation.  All other changes are merely natural and deterministic processes (lesser change)

4.1 In the absence of the universe (time, space and matter) there could be no change of the lesser sort

4.2 Therefore the immaterial, and eternal cause of the universe was not an inanimate thing, but a free-agent, a mind.

5 The difference between nonbeing “in reality” and being “in reality”, is an infinite difference

5.1 The difference between nonbeing “in the mind” and being “in the mind” is an infinite difference

5.2 The free-agent in question created something from nothing, and it follows that it conceived something from nothing

5.3 To create something from nothing is an infinite power, and to conceive something from nothing is an infinite act of conception or knowledge.

5.4 Therefore the cause of the universe is an eternal, transcendent, omniscient, omnipotent mind, which can properly be called God.

Obviously, there are many objections to be raised against my argument.  Several may be valid, indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.  But I’m confident enough with my argument to bet that I can refute every objection raised.  And I shall do so on another page.

 

THE FIVE WAYS OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS were the first official Christian formulations of the Cosmological Argument.  The first four are indeed Cosmological Arguments, but the fifth is a Teleological Argument.  Nowadays, more modern versions of the Cosmological Argument are used, but the Five remain the foundation of First-Cause Theistic argumentation.

 

THE FIVE WAYS OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

 

Below is a quote from the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, Second and Revised Edition, translated by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 1920.

 

“The existence of God can be proved in five ways.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because 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.

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.”

Of all things, do NOT send me objections to the Five Ways.  They’re rather archaically worded, and thus if you think you’ve refuted them it is more likely that you have misunderstood the text, than actually made a valid counter-argument.  All the same, if you are yet unconvinced of your counter-argument’s fallacy, post it as a comment, and I shall answer it on an objections page.

More often than not, the atheists who are well-enough informed such that they know what a Cosmological Argument is, are prone to scoffing away its simplicity with the claim that it’s meaningless.  This claim is almost valid, and really when you think about it, they make sense.  What good is a first-cause alone?  It’s no good at all, I say.  What must be done after the presentation of the 1st three premises is an elaboration on what exactly the Cause must have been.  I make the argument that it has all the classical attributes associated with God (sans omnibenevolence, Trinity, and love to name a few) and usually, this is enough to make any atheist stop in their tracks.  Most self-dubbed atheists will not react to this argument by converting.  This is because of the Wall of Incredulity, the most formidable obstacle to evangelism, which shall be discussed later. 

The crucial thing to know, then, is that even though this is a valid proof, it will only change the toughest of minds

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Filed under Exterior Subcategory, Theistic Arguments, Theoretical Category