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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.

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“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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  • Educate Yourself

    For a lengthy article on The Cosmological Argument, why would you write like this was just invented. the CA is hardly convincing by today’s rigorous standards of philosophy. I also recommend that viewers follow the link at the end of the article (it takes you to the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy) – you might actually learn something. But please don’t pass Jacob’s article off as serious philosophy.

  • Hey Adam,

    Nice to see you here
    Moshe

  • salvage

    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.

    First graph and you’re already spinning off into nonsense. You’re saying that they’ve presented evidence of “no evidence”? That’s a neat trick.

    No, what they (and sensible people) have said is “You can’t disprove a negative”. For instance right now in my living room is a giraffe named Gerald who is juggling flaming snowballs while singing Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

    Prove that Gerald isn’t. Oh, you can’t? Well then he must be so!

    But then again what you could say is a) a giraffe couldn’t fit into my apartment, they don’t have vocal cords or the ability to sing, it’s impossible to set snow on fire and even if you could a giraffe can’t juggle, not built for it you see.

    So, while you can’t disprove it you can cast more than enough doubt on my claim to safely dismiss it.

    Now if I said I went to the zoo and saw a giraffe named Gerald eating some leaves it would be rather odd to claim I was lying even though, once again, it cannot be proven one way or another.

    It’s baffling to me that this rather obvious bit of logic seems to elude theists.

    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.

    Evil? Huh? I’ll concede the first two sure but who has ever called theism intrinsically evil? How can believing in magic be evil? Silly, foolish, insane, etc but not evil, so we’ll just call that a straw man and be done with it.

    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.

    Sure, and since the theist is making an argument for something that is obviously not real (magic, the supernatural, mythology etc.) for them to gain any traction they need a “knock-out blow”, half-baked or debunked counter-arguments simply don’t cut it.

    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.

    No. Not really but theists need to think this way. It’s a bit like Creationists insisting that there are no “transition” fossils. You show them a dinosaur with feathers, a land walking whale and a live-birthing lizard and they stare for a moment and go “SO where are these fossils?”

    Then you go on about the “Prime Mover”, which has been shot down time and time again because it pulls an “infinite regress” and just like in hard core math when your answer is infinity it’s wrong.

    But here’s the thing, you don’t worship a “Prime Mover”, that is some nebulous omnipotent being, you beg favour from a very specific god that is described in the Torah and that creature is most certainly not real using the same logic applied to debunking Gerald.

    This is once again an old theist dodge, it goes like this:
    Phase 1: There must be a god because (Insert hoary old exercise in solipsistic logic)
    Phase 2: Since I have shown there must be a god it must therefore be MY god
    Phase 3: Ignore the glaring flaws

    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 thinkers thought this? The bedrock of creation mythology has always been an unchanging universe, when science began to reveal that the universe was in flux theists freaked out, see Galileo for details.

    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.

    Ding! Ding! Ding! Your god of course, not Zeus, Ra, the Rainbow Serpent or any other one of the thousands upon thousands humanity has fever dreamed up. Why your god above all the others? That’s a question no theist EVER answers.

    Never mind that in Genesis your god got it all wrong, weird that your god saying six days when it meant billions of years. And why did your god think the Sun and stars different things? I can understand why people would think that from a limited perspective but a god? Like the idea of Gerald belting out ‘Run Like Hell’ it’s ludicrous.

    “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

    To that and the other quotes from long dead theists who were never exposed to science and the reality it has revealed SHOW YOUR WORK. Saying “There is a god because reality exists” isn’t compelling in anyway.

    But you’re not interested in reality, reason or anything of the sort, you want your god to be real, you need your god to be real otherwise life the universe and everything becomes uncomforting and pointless and you lack the imagination and spirit to give it purpose.

    • Stephen

      This sloppy point-by-point is evidence of alot of anger

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