Recently I posted a portion of a discussion I had in the Choosing Hats chat room with a (somewhat) regular visitor. This visitor was discussing the Cosmological Argument (well, at least one formulation of it) with me, and I was attempting to demonstrate for them how what they were presenting failed miserably as an argument for the existence of God. This post has generated a few responses – some in the context of comments, some in the context of posts on other sites. For the sake of context, here is a snippet from the conversation where I took the atheist in question to task over his assertions:
brilliant_atheist: i accepted the cosmological argument
brilliant_atheist: but I deny that it points to something alive
BKing it is a terrible argument
brilliant_atheist: because the universe needs a cause
brilliant_atheist: because it exists
BKing so everything that exists requires a cause?
Now, although there is more than one formulation of the Cosmo argument, I responded to that which the atheist in question was presenting to me and nothing more. Of course, there are other formulations (some would say “better”) of the Cosmo argument out there, which is what I will respond to in this post.
Rather than saying “that which exists requires a cause”, the “better” formulation apparently says something akin to “that which comes into existence requires a cause”. One could question even this premise, of course, but for the sake of discussion I will grant it. However, does this formulation get us any closer to the existence of God? Does tweaking the argument to avoid an infinite regress of causes place us any closer to the conclusion “God exists”? I don’t believe it does.
All this tweaking gets us is an uncaused cause. If the universe is the first thing which came into existence, and if that which comes into existence requires a cause, then the universe was necessarily caused by this first, uncaused cause. But what could be the cause of the universe?
Some would take a leap and state that “this cause is God”, but such a leap is unwarranted. There is nothing in the premises of the argument that necessarily leads to the conclusion that the cause of the universe is God. All that is implied by the premises of the argument is that there is something in existence that was not caused, that is able to cause the universe (i.e. is a sufficient cause) to come into existence, and actually did cause it to come into existence.
For that matter, there is nothing in the premises of the argument that necessarily leads to the conclusion that the cause, whatever it is, is even singular. It could be two beings, working as a team – call them “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” for convenience sake. Why wouldn’t their existence as uncaused causes be sufficient, given the way the “better” argument has been reformulated for our consideration?