Weekly Link Roundup #63: Rebutting the Cosmological Argument

Earlier, I had banned myself from overtly writing about religion until the end of 2012. Well, it’s now 2013. I’m slowly building up the interest to write about religion and the philosophy thereof again, but I decided that until then, I would start rebutting common theistic arguments. The problem, of course, is that many excellent rebuttals already exist, and I don’t want to re-invent the wheel.

So, I thought that I would dedicate my Weekly Link Roundup section to highlighting these rebuttals to common arguments, to gather them all in one place, mostly for my personal benefit, but perhaps yours too. This one and the next two roundups (#63, 64, and 65) will be dedicated to this quest to rebut the three arguments for the existence of God I hear the most: the cosmological argument, the design argument, and the fine-tuning argument.

Today, we’ll look at the Cosmological Argument. In case you forgot, the Cosmological Argument argues that God must exist because only God can explain the existence of the universe. It typically flows as follows:

P1: The universe began to exist.
P2: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
C3: Therefore from P1 and P2, the universe has a cause.
P4: Only God can cause the universe to begin to exist.
C5: Therefore God exists.

Here are the links:

  • Wikipedia on the Cosmological Argument: “The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a First Cause (or instead, an Uncaused cause) to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an “unconditioned” or “supreme” being, usually then identified as God. It is traditionally known as an argument from universal causation, an argument from first cause, the causal argument or the argument from existence. Whichever term is employed, there are three basic variants of the argument, each with subtle yet important distinctions: the arguments from in causa (causality), in esse (essentially), in fieri (becoming), and the argument from contingency.”
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the Cosmological Argument: “On the one hand, the argument arises from human curiosity as to why there is something rather than nothing or than something else. It invokes a concern for some full, complete, ultimate, or best explanation of what exists contingently. On the other hand, it raises intrinsically important philosophical questions about contingency and necessity, causation and explanation, part/whole relationships (mereology), infinity, sets, and the nature and origin of the universe. In what follows we will first sketch out a very brief history of the argument, note the two fundamental types of deductive cosmological arguments, and then provide a careful analysis of each, first the argument from contingency, then the argument from the impossibility of an infinite temporal regress of causes. In the end we will consider an inductive version of the cosmological argument.”
  • Debunking the Kalam Cosmological Argument [YouTube]: “We hope this is the definitive take down of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. We show how it is contradictory and that the physics being used to support it doesn’t do so.”
  • Why “Everything Has a Cause” is a Terrible Argument for God: “If you have evidence showing that the universe was caused by a supernatural creator, I’d be interested in hearing it. But if your only reason for believing in a God who created the universe is, ‘There had to be a creator because… well, because there just has to be, because everything has to have been caused by something, because I can’t imagine a universe without something making it happen’… you’re going to have to find a better argument.”
  • A Critical Examination of the Kalam Cosmological Argument [PDF]: “In this section, Morriston first explains that William Lane Craig’s version of the kalam cosmological argument tries to establish (1) that the series of all past events must have a beginning; (2) that there is a First Cause of this series of events; (3) that the First Cause is a timeless person; and (4) that this person created the universe out of nothing. Morriston then takes issue with Craig’s arguments for all of these conclusions. He tries to show (1) that neither of his philosophical arguments against the infinite past is successful; (2) that it is far from obvious that the beginning of a whole temporal series (even if it has one) must have a cause; (3) that Craig’s argument for the claim that the first cause is a person cannot be sustained in the context of the sort of theism that he himself wishes to defend; and (4) that Craig’s arguments for creation ex nihilo are not cogent.”
  • Eternity and Time in William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument: “I shall now present Craig’s argument for God’s existence after which I will carefully scrutinize the notions of time and eternity that Craig employs in it. Craig argues that the conclusion to his kalam argument suggests two possibilities: either the conditions that produced the universe are present from eternity or the conditions produced their effect in time, in which case the universe had a beginning in time. If the universe’s cause was mechanical then either the universe has existed from eternity or it could not have existed at all. This is because any effect must immediately follow a mechanical cause. The wind that causes a leaf to detach from its branch cannot determine its own course of action. As soon as the set of necessary conditions within nature is present, the wind must blow. Similarly, if a mechanical set of conditions had produced the cause of the universe’s existence, then the universe must have immediately begun to exist. A mechanical cause is unintelligent and cannot distinguish one particular moment in time from another. Therefore, a first mechanical cause could not have produced the universe in time.”
  • The Ontology of Time: “On this view, the structure of the future is not fixed by any set of causes, but merely by the fact that all time has already run its course, and that from a point of view outside the universe, we (you and I) are actually in the past and only observing how that randomly patterned future has already unfolded. And since it can only unfold once, the future for us is fixed and unchangeable–as fixed and unchangeable as our past.” This view of time also implies that time does not flow in a way that requires a First Cause.
  • Who Created God?: “Suppose that the newest space probe on Mars discovers a strange pyramid-shaped structure on the planet’s surface, one that looks like it might be artificial. We ask two friends how they think such a singular object came to exist on an uninhabited planet. [...] Crazy McLoonbat says ‘The pyramid was built by Pyramobot 5000, a giant sapphire-blue pyramid-building robot with a thousand flexible titanium arms.’ [...A] big part of why we reject Crazy McLoonbat is wanting to ask ‘But who created the Pyramobot 5000?’ If we can figure out why the objection ‘But who created the Pyramobot 5000?’ is valid, we can see whether the same objection might apply to ‘But who created God?’”
  • Ex Nihilo Onus Merdae Fit: “This is why ex nihilo nihil fit is necessarily false. For that is a law. And a law is not nothing. A law is something. To say that ‘from nothing comes only nothing’ is to say that some law of physics (like, say, the law of conservation of energy) exists to prevent nothing from generating anything else except more nothing. But if nothing exists, then that law of physics doesn’t exist. Since it is not logically necessary that nothing can only produce nothing, then when nothing exists except what is logically necessary, the law ex nihilo nihil fit doesn’t exist either. Therefore, that ‘absolute nothing’ that once existed will not have been governed by such a law. It cannot have been. Because if it were, it would then not be nothing, but the inexplicable and arbitrary existence of something: a weird law of physics with no origin or agency. Thus it is a logical contradiction to say “there once was absolutely nothing, and that absolute nothing can only have produced nothing.’”

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I now blog at EverydayUtilitarian.com. I hope you'll join me at my new blog! This page has been left as an archive.

On 8 Feb 2013 in All, Atheism, Counter-apologetics, Link Roundup. No Comments.

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