The Cosmological Argument

I found the following argument on Capturing Christianity‘s FB page.

(1) If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) The universe has a cause.
(4) The simplest and least arbitrary account of the cause in (3) is a perfect being.
(5) If (3) and (4), then God exists.
(6) God exists.

I have a few problems with this argument, namely the first, second, and fourth premises.  I don’t see why I should accept these premises. I’d like to take some time to explore these premises and show why they may not be as sound as theists tend to believe.

The First Premise: (If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause.)

Much like the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA), this argument asserts that if the universe began to exist then the universe would have a cause.  This is, essentially, an inductive premise, but it’s one that I don’t think we have any justification for.  On the surface it seems very intuitively true, yet there are subtle problems that I don’t really know how to overcome.

First, when we speak of things being caused inside the universe, we can talk about how things are made from preexisting stuff and reshaped into something else.  We observe this happen all the time inside the universe as material is rearranged to form new things like cakes, iPhones, and bicycles.  I don’t know about you, but if the universe is a container for all the stuff of our universe, then I don’t see that it makes sense to talk about it being formed from existing stuff.  If it wasn’t formed from existing stuff, what inductive experience do we have that tells us that universes need causes?  It’s fundamentally not like anything else we know about, and any inductive inference seems dubious.

I’m willing to change my mind here, but frankly, there’s a lot of work to do that.  My challenge, to any theist who believes this premise, is to show me that this is even possible.  Demonstrate for me at least one other thing that comes into existence from no previous material, and show that it is being caused.  Determine what that cause is, and then show me that this equally applies to the universe.  I don’t know how to do this.

Given that this first premise seems very dubious, the rest of the argument is already in trouble, but let’s continue anyway.

The Second Premise: (The universe began to exist.)

This premise may be more dubious, and even harder to justify, than the first premise.  Theists often point to established science like the Big Bang (BB) , or to mathematical theorems like the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin  theorem (BVG), as proof that the universe “began to exist.”  If it was this simple then cosmologists would readily accept that the universe began to exist, but the problem is that they don’t.  There is no current consensus that the universe ever began.  Here are a few of the reasons for that:

  • BB cosmology doesn’t actually tell us that the universe began to exist, as there is no consensus on any model that tells us this is the case.  There are plenty of cosmological models which predict that the universe is in fact eternal, many of which have not been ruled out.
  • Our current understand of the BB is not yet complete, and we don’t have a model for the very earliest moments of the universe.  Given that we haven’t been able to model the BB to the earliest moments it seems very premature to declare that the BB must have been the very beginning of the universe.
  • The BGV theorem is simply a mathematical theorem that starts with a particular set of axioms (assumptions) and deduces a conclusion from those axioms.  Start with different axioms, or show that some axioms don’t map onto reality, and the BGV theorem falls apart.  Ultimately, mathematics is only useful when the axioms map to reality, and I don’t yet know that the BVG does this.
    • It’s also interesting to note that Alan Guth’s, one of the authors of this theorem, seems to believe that the universe is probably eternal.
  • I think the most damning piece of evidence against this premise is that it ultimately depends on the A-theory of time (which I will refer to as Presentism from now on.)  Presentism is the view of time that says that only the present exist, and both the past and future do not yet exist.  The problem with this view is that it’s falsified by special relativity, and that Eternalism (that all points of time equally exist, along with the present) would seem to be more correct view of reality.  If the universe is eternal then it doesn’t need any god to create it.  The universe no more came into existence at the BB than a yard stick comes into existence at the first inch.

Given the various problems with this premise, I’m inclined to not accept it as true, at least not yet.  If there ever becomes a consensus of cosmologists that the universe began to exist then I’m willing to grant this premise.

The Fourth Premise: (The simplest and least arbitrary account of the cause in (3) is a perfect being.)

How did the author determine this?  This premise is even more bizarre than the previous two that I’ve highlighted my problems with.  What exactly does the argument mean by “perfect being”?  This isn’t really clear to me, although it’s pretty clear they are talking about the Christian God.

Really now, how is God the simplest, and least arbitrary, account of a cause?  This just seems to be an assertion, and goes way beyond my limited understanding.  The Christian God is far from simple, as it is a supernatural, all knowing, all powerful, mind without a physical brain that somehow exists outside of space, and time.  I don’t even know what it means for anything to exist outside of space-time, let alone be supernatural.  How is this the simplest explanation?  How did the author determine that there are no more simple natural explanations?

How is the Christian God not arbitrary?  Maybe to the Christian it’s not arbitrary, but to somebody who’s not a Christian this seems completely arbitrary.  Nothing has been done to justify this.

Further, my most pressing objection is that if this “being” is actually perfect, then it should have no needs (because it’s already perfect), let alone a need to create a universe, or to create humanity, in the first place.  To purpose that a perfect being does anything seems incoherent to me.

Conclusions

Assuming I was to accept this entire argument, I cannot conclude that the being in question is actually the Christian god Jesus.  This argument, at best, would force me to accept some type of deistic God, and says nothing about how likely this God is to intervene in reality, or how likely it is that this God would incarnate itself in order to come to some backwater of the universe to die for the salvation of humanity.

Even if I did conclude that some God did create the universe, I have no reason whatsoever to believe that any of the world’s religions are true, and I’m still stuck with no way to confirm the claims of any of the worlds religions.  The best I can say is that maybe one of the world’s religions is true, but this doesn’t move me from where I already was.

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