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Cosmological Arguments for Existence of God

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December, 2013

The existence of God has not been proven undoubtedly. Arguments from entrusting "holy" and historical documents, design arguments, the "ontological argument" and cosmological arguments seek to prove the existence of God from distinct point of views. Cosmological arguments raise the question of "how things are here?. In attempt to answer the question they assert the existence of God. The purpose of this essay is to show how cosmological arguments try to answer "how things are here?", and why they are inadequate in answering the question and in proving the existence of God. First, the two main versions of the cosmological arguments will be outlined. Then, the assumptions about causality and knowledge upon which they are based will be evaluated. Finally, a personal assessment is forwarded in regard to which arguments holds the strongest and why they ultimately fail to prove the existence of God. Also, the relevance of the "big Bang" theory in relation to causality and the issue of "beginnings" will be discussed.

Saint Thomas Aquina's expressed the two important versions of the cosmological arguments through his famous second and third ways. His second way has three premises. First, all things result from causes and they in term act as causes of other things.(notes, 8) The cause-effect-cause relation is generally an accepted principle in the public mind, philosophy, and in sciences. We believe that we can cause things to happen. For example, we can cause ourselves to remember complex mathematical formulas by repeating them over and over. Similarly, we and else are here as a result of something causing us to lead us here.

The second premise states that an ordinary thing cannot be cause of itself because "if it were it would be prior to itself which is impossible."(notes, 8) A thing must exist to cause anything, thus to cause itself is like inventing something from nothing which is incomprehensible. It should also be noted that the second premise requires the cause effect to occur one after another or the series to be in a linear fashion. The third premise requires the series of cause and effect to be finite.(Aquinas, 5) Aquinas logic is as follows: a thing to exist it needs cause or causes other than itself. Those cause or causes must have had a "first cause" to begin with, otherwise they would not have existed in the first place. If there exist a first cause, the series cannot be infinite. The conclusion Aquinas reaches from these arguments is that the "first cause" to be "which everyone gives the name of God."(Aquinas, 5) Aquinas might have concluded the "first cause" to be God since everything dependent on the "first cause" and only God could be responsible for everything.

The second version of the cosmological argument can be summarized as follows: for anything to come to exist it must gain its existence form something already existing. The world and else does not have to exist, yet they do. Therefore, "a being which exists of its own necessity and doesn't receive its existence from another" must cause wold and else to exist, and is God.(notes, 9) To elaborate, the source or reason for the existence of the universe is found within God. The source or reason for the existence of the universe is found within God. The source or reason for God's existent is also found within God.

Certain notions and assumptions employed about causality is the first version of the cosmological arguments are highly questionable. The proclamation that everything must have a cause has been challenged by quantum physics. Quantum physics claims that the "behavior of atomic particles is not determined precisely by prior conditions."(Lackey, 17) Spontaneous occurrence of atomic particles in sub-atomic level is possible without any necessary cause. It is not necessary to accuse Aquinas of making foolish claims about all events having a cause or causes, since quantum theory was not available in his time. Moreover, the tremendous application and acceptance of the quantum theory requires its conclusions to be respected. Thus, in assessing the weight of the two arguments I must side with the scientific conclusion.

Another assertion made is that a thing cannot cause itself. A logically sound argument yet under close observations serious doubts exist. In nature many events occur in cyclic manner. The occurrence of seasons, and life cycles in wilderness are good examples of things happening in cyclic order. I try to imply that it might be impossible for ordinary things to cause itself directly, buts highly probable that a chain of events may end up reproducing their original state. The observation that matter and energy being conserved and only changes in forms strengthen the idea of things occurring in some cyclic order. Removing certain series of events may end up reproducing their original state. The observation that matter and energy being conserved and only changes in forms strengthen the idea of things occurring in some cyclic order. Removing certain series of events or series being not linear collapses the idea of causal dependencies.

Denying linear occurrences of cause-effect series or not accepting that everything need to have a cause would mandate an important position for beginning of the universe, the "first cause" or a source of existence would be necessary to explain the beginning and the present existence of the universe. However, the proof for the beginning of the universe must be independent of the argument of causal dependencies.

Arguments for a beginning of the universe and the idea that string of cause-effect relations could not stretch infinitely would be supported by scientific findings. According to the scientific Big Bang theory, "the matter and energy of which the galaxies are made are not more than 20 billion years old."(Lackey, 15) Thus everything exists since than. The question of "what was before the beginning?" is not worth asking because it is like asking who finished before the gold medallist Donathan Bailey in the Atlanta Olympics? One modern vision of cosmological arguments begins with the statement of universe having a beginning as their primary premise. According to the modern version, "everything with a beginning in time must have a cause" and that cause is God.(Lackey, 15)

Modern versions want to profit from the scientific finding that the universe had a beginning, but ignore the scientific finding that universe need to have a cause. The Big Bang theory has now become the focal point of the cosmological argument. The current debate has shifted in discussing the validity and applicability of the science, and the old cosmological arguments have taken a back seat.

The cosmological arguments certain assumptions about knowledge further weakens their claim. In all the versions the conclusions reached seem to contradict the premises supposed. For example, if everything has a cause then how come there is "first cause", which is an "uncaused cause". Another example is where Aquinas supposes "all things possible not to be"(A1uinas, 5), yet God is a "self-existent" being who always exist. One reason for the contradictions is the assumption that the God is beyond the rules governing the working of the universe. It is a dangerous assumption to make because only universe is available for us to analyze, thus one cannot prove something that's beyond the scope of the universe.

At no place a definite nature of God has been provide by the cosmological theories. The arguments merely conclude that "first cause" or "self existing" being as God. The arguments claim to reduce something precious and supreme, but I can not tell whether it is God that they have proven. The need to hypothesis qualities of God, and the inability to independently confirm its God who fits those qualities is a dilemma applicable for any arguments trying to prove the existence of God.(from notes) Still, the general notion of God as all powerful, all knowing and good being does not necessarily apply to "the God" concluded by the cosmological arguments.

The modern version of the cosmological argument having incorporated the recent scientific developments would be the strongest. Yet, it can not avoid the possibility that the universe could have began spontaneously out of nothing. Thus, "the God" concluded by the old versions-the "first cause" or "self existing" being would be replaced by an Unknown and Mysterious who must be responsible for the beginning of the universe. In the final analysis cosmological arguments request for faith rather than reason, which is not an objective of cosmological arguments.

To summarize, in the past cosmological arguments have been a valuable way of asserting the existence of a Supreme Being. However, the development of science and quantum physics has shown many of its premises and assumptions to be false. Including the premise that everything must have cause, and that "everything possible not to be".(Aquinas, 5) have been proven false. Moreover, the assumption of God being an exception to the nature of universe paralyses the argument capability to ever prove the existence God rationally. The issue of "beginnings" and Big Bang theory becomes important in revising cosmological arguments. Even so, whatever the cosmological argument reduce need not be "the God". Therefore, cosmological arguments fail to show us "the God".



Douglas P. Lackey, "Cosmology and Creation: The Big Band and the Cosmological Argument", in James E. Huchingson,
Religion and the Natural Sciences, Holt, Rinehart and Winston
1993, pp. 190 - 195.

E.M. Harlow, Notes for PHL 201: "The Arguments for the Existence of God"

St. Thomas Aquinas, "The Five Ways"
Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas,
ed. Anton Pegis, Random House, 1948.

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