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The Cosmological Argument

The following is a work in progress, and as such, it is being placed in the “Incomplete” category. Once it is cleaned up a bit more and additional references and details provided, I’ll move it into a more formal category. I consider this as it is, in a state of incompleteness and serves primarily as a verbose “outline” that needs to have it’s “blanks” filled in.

 

Preface

Many people believe that it is unreasonable to believe in God. They say that there are no reasons to believe in God and as such, belief in a higher power is tradition or superstition.  However, throughout history, many arguments have been given for the existence of God. These arguments are laid upon a foundation of philosophical reasoning. One such argument is the Cosmological Argument. It has many forms and I will briefly provide two of those forms in my thesis. In addition, I will provide a couple of the more popular counter-arguments and address them as well. Lastly, the issue of God’s existence is one that has been debated since the ancients. Arguments for and against can be quite complex. Entire books and dissertations have been written about the matter and I do not pretend to think that I can cover every angle of every sub-argument and counter-argument. My attempt here is to summarize the more popular points and simply make the case that it is not true that there is no ground to stand one when it comes to having reasonable faith in God.

The Argument

 

“Every being which begins has a cause for its beginning; now the world is a being which begins; therefore, it possesses a cause for its beginning.” Al-Ghazli (1058 AD – 1111 AD), Muslim Philosopher.

 

The first argument is from causation. Simply put, everything which has a beginning must have a cause. And since the universe has a beginning (as evidenced by current scientific data such as expansion of the universe and the depletion of usable energy), it must have a cause. And by universe, we mean all of space-time reality.   Now, things do not pop into existence arbitrarily. All things require a cause. Also, something cannot cause itself for it would have to be in a state of being prior to acting (causing), so for something to cause itself is circular.

Of the First Cause, we can at least know a few things. We know for example that it must transcend space and time; therefore it must be immaterial and nonphysical. It must also be incredibly powerful to have created all matter and energy. Lastly, it must be personal as only a Mind could fit the above description of the First Cause. As we’ll see, opponents of the KCA object to the idea of a personal cause, so we’ll address it in more detail later.

Another form of the Cosmological Argument is one from Contingency (first made famous by Aquinas and later popularized by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz). Essentially, it argues that everything that exists has an explanation of its existence either by necessity of its own nature or through an external cause. And if the universe has an explanation, that explanation must be God. Since the universe exists, it has an explanation, and therefore God exists as its explanation.

Usually, the focal point here is the premise that the explanation must be God. But let’s think about the possibilities here for a moment given what we know thus far. We know that the First Cause must be nonphysical and immaterial, a being that is beyond space and time. There are only two sorts of things that could fit that description: an abstract object like a number or an unembodied mind (obviously, we are arguing for dualism here). But abstract objects do not possess the properties of causation, they cannot cause anything. That is a part of what it means to be abstract. Therefore, the First Cause must be an unembodied Mind, and this is what believers refer to as God.

Counter-Arguments and Replies

Some would argue that the KCA (Kalam Cosmological Argument) is untrue because it rests on the principle of causation. And while we certainly believe that it applies to our everyday world, or our universe on a macro level, it doesn’t apply to the realm of quantum mechanics (the micro-level).  They point out that subatomic particles (or “virtual particles”) come into being from nothing and this invalidates the premises in the KCA.

But this is an abuse of science as well as just a play on words. The theories concerning QM (quantum mechanics) here have to do with particles originating as a fluctuation of the energy that is contained in an existing vacuum. “Nothing” here, in physics, does not mean “sheer nothingness” or a state of non-being, instead it is a sea of fluctuating energy that is governed by physical laws and having a physical structure.

In other words, “nothing” as it pertains to the context in which the KCA is formed, does not mean just “empty space”. Nothing is the absence of anything whatsoever, even space itself. I think this is similar to the difference between philosophies of Parmenides and Democritus about the state of non-being.  There needs to be a distinction between such states, using language to circumvent argumentation is neither productive nor is it intellectually honest.

Another objection may be that while there may be a first cause, it is not necessarily the case that it must be personal. But as I’ve already shown, the First Cause, containing the properties that it has, must be either an abstract object or an unembodied Mind (which of course, means it is personal). And since it cannot be an abstract object, it must be an unembodied Mind.

But this is not the only reason for believing the First Cause must be personal. The First Cause, transcending time and space, is eternal, it is timeless. But the universe is a temporal effect.  That is, we have a temporal effect but a timeless cause.

Let’s take the example of a race car going around a track at 200 mph. The cause of reaching 200 mph is the acceleration of the car up to 200 mph. If the car had always been traveling at 200 mph, then it would be impossible for the car to begin to travel from 0, to 25, to 50, to 100, to 200 mph. But the car did begin to travel and it did begin to accelerate up to 200 mph. Likewise, the universe did begin to exist.

The cause of the universe has always been there, since it is timeless.  But the effect (the universe) is not.  This begs the question of course as to “Why not?” Shouldn’t the universe have been always there since the cause is?

Ghazali argued that a being with free will is the solution to the problem. God’s creating the universe is a free act that does not depend upon any existing conditions. This allows God’s act of creating to be something spontaneous and new and its effect to be temporal.  And as Dr. William Lane Craig explains, “the act of creation is simultaneous with the existence of the universe. God is timeless in His state of being without the universe, but when the universe is created He is in time”.

 Conclusion

It is indeed the case that a belief in God can be reasonable, that there are arguments for God’s existence and these arguments are not centered on tradition or superstition, but rather reason and philosophy. I have presented two arguments to support my conclusion. I have also addressed a couple of potential opposing arguments and exposed the problems with these counter-arguments.

 

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