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November 18, 2011 1:01 am

The Cosmological Argument

avatar by Adam Jacobs

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In my various interactions with atheists I am often informed that there is “no evidence” for the existence of a God (or gods as they like to add.) This tact is difficult to process in as much as great philosophers, theologians and even scientists through countless ages have cogently presented this evidence. The non-believer imagines that such evidence, if indeed it did exist, has been thoroughly refuted and therefore anyone who continues to take it seriously is either stupid, ignorant or evil. It does not, as a rule, enter the consciousness of the non-believer that whatever counter-arguments exist, that they remain just that – arguments and not knock-out blows against the original ideas. The upshot is that the many compelling (and reasonable) arguments that have been presented over the millennia exist quite intact and unharmed by opposing notions. For those who are unfamiliar with them, or who that might appreciate a refresher course, I propose to outline 54 of them for your independent evaluation. This first piece will attempt to colloquially explain what is known as the “Cosmological Argument.”

The Cosmological Argument is one of the oldest and most intuitive arguments in favor of the existence of God. It has been treated by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas and as well as by Eastern and African thinkers. The basic form of the argument goes like this: everything we see in our world is contingent (it has a cause), there cannot be an endless series of causes (an infinite regress), and therefore there must be a primordial cause that is the cause of all causes. Aristotle referred to this cause as the “Unmoved Mover” and Western tradition refers to this original cause as God.

It is known that the discovery of the “Big Bang” theory was disturbing to many thinkers who had assumed that the universe had always existed (and therefore required no Creator.) What we see from the Cosmological Argument is that even the notion of the “open state” universe is problematic in that it requires an infinite regress. Imagine a slow train, “the Infinite Express,” pulling past a station platform you are standing on. You ask the conductor where he is coming from and he tells you that they have always been traveling this way – for an infinite amount of time. You can know that this is impossible as it presupposes that an infinite amount of time has elapsed before the train arrived at your station and clearly it has not. The logical conclusion is that this train began its journey at a specific point in time – perhaps very long ago, but there is a huge (and critical) difference between an enormous amount of time and an infinite amount.

So too, as we observe the myriad events unfolding in our world we can know that they must all trace back to a single cause – a cause which itself must be without cause. This cause is God.

“The World is either eternal or created in time. If it is created in time, it undoubtedly has a Creator who created it in time.”- Moses Maimonides

“Anything that is composite undoubtedly consists of more than one component. These components are prior to it in nature….Now, what is eternal has no cause; what has no cause has no beginning; what has no beginning has no end. What has a beginning is not eternal. What is not eternal has been brought into existence…consequently; anything that is not composite is not eternal [for it had a beginning] and therefore must have been brought into existence. It follows from our premises, then, that the whole world was brought into existence: since it has been demonstrated that whatever is composite must have been brought into existence. This being the case, and since it is impossible for a thing to have made itself, it must be that the world has a Maker Who started it and brought it into existence.” – Rabbi Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda

“We see things in the world that can exist and can also not exist. Now everything that can exist has a cause. But one cannot go on ad infinitum in causes…Therefore one must posit something the existing of which is necessary.”- Thomas Aquinas

There are, of course, several counter-arguments to this classic idea and like all ideas, their premises can be challenged. The reader is encouraged to visit this link to explore all of the varieties of this concept along with its potential flaws and draw your own conclusions.

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