disillusioned

A Discussion of the Cosmological Argument

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I’ve started this thread in the hopes that we can have a discussion about some of the classic cosmological arguments for the existence of God. @ficino and I began this discussion in the Lion’s Den a couple of days ago, and I’d like to continue it here. A distinction that should be made at the outset is that my goal here is not the discuss the existence of the God of the Bible necessarily, but rather to examine the question of whether the classic arguments for theism/deism in general have merit.

 

The following is an excerpt from some writing that I did several years ago about my personal journey away from Christianity. I thought that this would be a decent place to start our discussion. It concerns the kalam cosmological argument, which is a modern formulation of the classic cosmological argument. I’m more than happy to discuss other forms as well as the discussion continues. Please feel free to critique, comment, or expand on the below as you see fit.

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        I would like to spend some time discussing the cosmological argument for the existence of God. There is, of course, a significant problem that must be faced at the outset here: namely, that this argument requires a very narrow definition of “God”. As it turns out, all that this argument requires of God is that He is the cause of the universe. Whereas some other arguments, such as the teleological argument, require at least that the designer has some measure of intelligence, the cosmological argument does not even require that God be a sentient being. But I shall come to that in due course.

 

        The cosmological argument can be phrased in many ways, but its basic form is as follows. We live in a universe which is governed by the law of cause and effect. That is to say, anything which begins to exist must have a cause. Furthermore, the cause of an object must be external to that object. I exist, therefore I was caused. Moreover, I did not cause myself. Chickens lay eggs which give rise to chickens, but no chicken springs from an egg which it itself has laid. Hence if an object can be said to have begun to exist, then it must have a cause which is external to itself. But modern science dictates that the universe began to exist approximately 14 billion years ago at the big bang. Therefore it must be the case that the universe has a cause which is external to the universe. In other words the universe must have a supernatural cause, and we call this cause God.

 

        This argument appears to be extremely convincing. It appeals to our intuition, for at first glance it certainly seems as though the universe ought to have a cause. Furthermore, this argument is deductive, and it is a valid deduction. However, the premises do not stand up to close scrutiny as we shall see. But before I demonstrate precisely how and why it is not convincing, I shall draw your attention once again to the unavoidable fact that this argument makes no claim whatsoever about the nature of God. Even if it is accepted verbatim, all that it demonstrates is that something caused the universe. What if, for example, there was a prior universe which contracted to a singularity in a “big crunch” and this is what caused the big bang? Then the “God” that this argument attempts to establish would merely be another universe. And so I fail to see how this argument is helpful at all to the theist. If one wishes to believe that there is a supernatural cause of the universe and that this cause is a personal God then one must either choose to believe this entirely on faith or come up with an argument other than the cosmological argument to demonstrate that this is the case.

 

My main objection to the cosmological argument, however, has to do with the nature of the premises. In particular, it is my view that neither of the premises must necessarily be accepted. Recall that the argument has two premises: the first states that anything which begins to exist must have a cause which is external to itself, and the second states that the universe began to exist. If these two premises are accepted then the conclusion follows logically and necessarily. That is to say, if these two premises are true then it must be case that the universe has a cause which is “supernatural” at least in the sense that it must be external to the universe. As I shall now show, however, neither of these two premises is as convincingly true as the proponents of this argument usually make it out to be.

 

        Let us consider these two premises in order. The first premise is, in my view, an incorrect statement of the law of cause and effect. On the surface, and in most contexts, I would not quibble with anyone who stated the law of cause and effect thus, but in the context of this argument it is insufficient. A more correct statement would be the following: “anything which begins to exist within the universe must have a cause which is external to itself”. Of course, it is obvious why proponents of the cosmological argument would never state the law of cause and effect in this way: to do so would immediately defeat the entire argument. After all, the purpose of the cosmological argument is to apply the law of cause and effect to the universe itself, and so if we state it properly as a law that is only known to apply within the universe then it no longer follows that it must apply to the universe as a whole. We know that (generally speaking—that is, if one disregards quantum particles) the law of cause and effect applies within the confines of the universe. We do not know that it applies beyond the universe. Moreover, we do not know that it applies to the universe as a whole. Hence we cannot say with certainty that it does. Therefore I will happily admit that it is possible that the law of cause and effect applies to the universe, but it is not necessary. And so, the first premise of the cosmological argument need not be accepted.

 

        There is an analogous example of what I am attempting to show here that comes from the field of mathematics. Suppose we consider the set of natural numbers. That is, the normal counting numbers, the positive integers, which, in set notation, may be denoted {1, 2, 3, ...}. Every element of this set has the property that it is also an integer (the set of integers contains the natural numbers, zero, and the additive inverses of the natural numbers ie, {...-2, -1, 0, 1, 2,...}). However, if I were to assert that since every element of the natural numbers is an integer, the set itself must be an integer, any reasonable mathematician would shake his head in chagrin at my poor understanding. In fact, the assertion that the set of natural numbers is an integer is entirely false. Indeed, to reason in this way would be to commit the fallacy of composition. The simple fact of the matter is that the properties of the elements of a set do not necessarily generalise to the set itself. Similarly, the laws that govern the contents of the universe do not need to govern the universe itself. But this entails that the first premise of the cosmological argument does not need to be accepted.

 

        Now we turn our attention to the second premise of the argument. Recall that this premise states simply that the universe began to exist. And indeed, the general consensus is that the universe began to exist about 14 billion years ago in the big bang. My issue here is similar to the issue I raised with the first premise: we must not ascribe to the universe itself properties of objects that exist within the universe. Generally speaking, we say something “began to exist” if there was a time t1 when it did not exist and some later time t2 when it did exist. If this is the case then we can say that there must have been a time t0 such that t0 is between t1 and t2 when this object “began” to exist. In the case of myself, I did not exist in 1985 (t1) and I did exist in 1995 (t2); hence we can say with reasonable certainty that at some time t0 between 1985 and 1995 I “began” to exist. As it turns out, this is quite correct; I was born in 1988. We cannot, however, make a similar statement about the universe. We certainly have a t2, for the simple reason that the universe exists now. But we do not have a t1. That is to say, there was never a time when the universe did not exist. I need to be somewhat careful here, lest I be accused of flaunting conventional scientific wisdom. In fact, what I am saying is exactly in line with what science tells us. Time is merely a facet of the universe. Therefore, unless there is a universe, there is no time. And so there literally never was a time when the universe did not exist, because until the universe existed there was no time. We can wind the clock back as far as we like, but we will never quite be able to get to zero because the instant we reach zero the clock ceases to exist. Therefore we cannot say with certainty that the universe “began to exist”; at least not in the usual sense.

 

        This may be somewhat confusing to some of my readers. For that matter, it is somewhat confusing to me. But the very fact that it is confusing means that we ought not to treat this subject with more certainty than we may rightfully claim. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know whether the law of cause and effect applies to the universe as a whole, and we certainly don’t know whether there was some sort of “time before time” wherein the universe did not exist. But given that we don’t know these things, what we most definitely must not say is that we know for certain that the universe must have a supernatural cause. I willingly admit that it is possible that the universe has a cause, but it is not necessary to believe that it does.

 

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I welcome criticism, questions, comments and all other serious discussion. I’m very interested to see where this goes. If you have something to contribute, please don’t hesitate to join in.

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Thank you for starting this thread, disillusioned! I could only give your OP a quick run-through now. I look forward to coming back and reading it much more thoroughly.

 

I never thought the Kalam arg is the strongest of the classic cosmological arguments. But more later.

 

looking forward, f

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The original Cosmological Argument goes something like:

 

P1  Everything that exists has a cause.

P2  The Universe exists.

C1  The Universe has a cause.

(and by theocratic extension)

C2  God is the cause.

 

It's a valid argument (i.e., if the premises are true then conclusion C1 deductively follows).  The C2 conclusion is a non-sequitur.  The Argument's soundness (validity of premise P1) is questionable.  There is also a set of secondary problems with this argument, such as definitions of "existence", "cause" and "Universe".  For example, if "Universre" is defined as everything that exists, then there can be nothing outside of the Universe to "cause" it and it must cause itself. 

 

The above Argument can be tweaked as follows:

 

P1  Everything that exists has a cause.

P2  God exists.

C1  God has a cause.

 

Same validity and an even larger problem with soundness because both premises are questionable (but don't tell that to a theist).

 

The "upgraded" Kalam Cosmological Argument was developed as stated by Disillusioned in his OP.  And yes, there are many problems with that form, more so than with the one I present above.

 

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Disillusioned,

 

I hope to contribute something to this thread, by way of my knowledge of things cosmological.  

 

The KCA is actually a crafty God-of-the-Gaps argument, where the initial singularity is the gap into which the Christian god is handily inserted.  However, the cosmologists who formulated the hypothesis in question (Hawking and Penrose) have since retracted that requirement.  They have since have shown that it (the singularity) is actually a spurious artifact, generated by using only General Relativity to describe the origin of the universe.  

 

More to follow as time permits.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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The KCA is a logical argument, and I thought this video would be a great intro to logical arguments for those not familiar with them.

 

 

 

William Lane Craig is probably the best known Christian who currently uses this argument - it's probably worth watching to see how Christians use this argument. The vast majority of Christians will simply repeat Craig's version of the KCA without understanding the logic behind it.... and that P1 should be rejected because it is not sound.

 

As sdelsolray points out, logically if you want to say: 

P1 - Everything that begins to exist has a cause

P2 - The universe exists

C - Therefore the universe has a cause

 

Then using the same logic you must accept sdelsolray's logical argument of God has a cause or you are irrational. Craig knows this so how to get around the problem? You introduce God as a transcendent first cause that does not require a beginning. The logical argument that leads to this? There isn't one! (Take it on faith)

 

This is similar to the complex complexity argument from intelligent design/creationists.  

 

Basically it goes

P1 DNA is very complex

P2 Complex things require a creator

C - Therefore DNA needed a creator (God)

 

We can then say

P1 God is more complex than DNA

P2 Complex things require a creator

C Therefore God needed a creator

 

Congratulations you just found an infinite regress! :D 

 

If anyone wants to dig further into learning about argument here are some resources.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/val-snd/

http://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/tvs.html 

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I have idea's, theories maybe. I couldn't read your whole post in one go, a dysfunction of the brain caused by a learning black out from Christianity. In fact I can retain more information now than when I was a Christian.

 

Ok, I'll have to write my ideas out little by little. It might take more than one post, and I'll have to explain more if anyone needs clarification.

 

I'll start by saying life maybe the cause of our known universe, which is not any type of God as I see it. 

 

I generally think that this universe isn't life itself. Granted we are alive, but alive in a system I call reality. Now I'm only using a language here that is suited around our primitive brain (So forgive me if it sounds fantastic)

 

So life is the architect of the know "Reality" not the universe. And reality creates subjects (Organic beings) for the purpose of learning. In my years I have heard many people refer to the known world and universe being made up of different types of chemical composition's (Relationships)

 

Now relationships are key here, for instance the sun is in a mass chemical relationship. Our body's are in a chemical relationship. Everything you can think of is taking and lending, destroying and creating, sustaining and exhausting in a chemical process.

 

So ill stop here.

 

But there is more.

 

Ideas though.

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I would like to spend some time discussing the cosmological argument for the existence of God. There is, of course, a significant problem that must be faced at the outset here: namely, that this argument requires a very narrow definition of “God”. As it turns out, all that this argument requires of God is that He is the cause of the universe. Whereas some other arguments, such as the teleological argument, require at least that the designer has some measure of intelligence, the cosmological argument does not even require that God be a sentient being. But I shall come to that in due course.

 

This gets to the crux of the matter in regards to the dishonest tactics by apologists. Craig doesn't argue just for a first cause deity. He is arguing specifically for the deity of the bible - all three of them! These deities all have testable claims, all of which fail, so even if they are right about some deity, we know it's not the bible deity.... unless he's super deceptive and inspired the bible to fool us all... which considering some bible versus I wouldn't put past such a deity.

 

 

        This may be somewhat confusing to some of my readers. For that matter, it is somewhat confusing to me. But the very fact that it is confusing means that we ought not to treat this subject with more certainty than we may rightfully claim. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know whether the law of cause and effect applies to the universe as a whole, and we certainly don’t know whether there was some sort of “time before time” wherein the universe did not exist. But given that we don’t know these things, what we most definitely must not say is that we know for certain that the universe must have a supernatural cause. I willingly admit that it is possible that the universe has a cause, but it is not necessary to believe that it does.

 

This is what the proponents of the KCA rely on. Getting into time not existing, and quantum mechanics showing that particles can pop spontaneously in and out of existence gets too much for the majority of the Christians apologists preach to.

 

Everything that begins to exist has a cause... no, we only know that everything we can currently observe has a cause. You cannot extrapolate back or forward beyond your data points and claim that what held true for the data points also holds true before the universe began to exist. Certainly the universe may have a cause - but there is nothing to say that a deity was that cause.

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The original Cosmological Argument goes something like:

 

P1  Everything that exists has a cause.

P2  The Universe exists.

C1  The Universe has a cause.

(and by theocratic extension)

C2  God is the cause.

 

It's a valid argument (i.e., if the premises are true then conclusion C1 deductively follows).  The C2 conclusion is a non-sequitur.  The Argument's soundness (validity of premise P1) is questionable.  There is also a set of secondary problems with this argument, such as definitions of "existence", "cause" and "Universe".  For example, if "Universre" is defined as everything that exists, then there can be nothing outside of the Universe to "cause" it and it must cause itself. 

 

The above Argument can be tweaked as follows:

 

P1  Everything that exists has a cause.

P2  God exists.

C1  God has a cause.

 

Same validity and an even larger problem with soundness because both premises are questionable (but don't tell that to a theist).

 

The "upgraded" Kalam Cosmological Argument was developed as stated by Disillusioned in his OP.  And yes, there are many problems with that form, more so than with the one I present above.

 

Yes, the original form is stronger as an argument, but if we look more closely, I think we can see some problems here as well. As you say, P1 is questionable. But leave that aside. Take P1 and P2, and draw C1. As you suggest, we are then entitled to repeat the argument for the cause of the universe. So we get an infinite regress.

 

Usually this is avoided by stipulating that the cause must itself be un-caused, or eternal. But this entails that we must modify P1, since it is no longer true that everything that exists has a cause. So either we simply take the "first cause" as an exception to P1, or we change P1 to say that everything which begins to exist has a cause. In the latter case, P2 must also be changed, and then we're basically at the KCM. In the former case, we are entitled to ask why the universe itself shouldn't be considered as a possible exception to P1. At least we know that the universe actually exists.

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Disillusioned,

 

I hope to contribute something to this thread, by way of my knowledge of things cosmological.  

 

The KCA is actually a crafty God-of-the-Gaps argument, where the initial singularity is the gap into which the Christian god is handily inserted.  However, the cosmologists who formulated the hypothesis in question (Hawking and Penrose) have since retracted that requirement.  They have since have shown that it (the singularity) is actually a spurious artifact, generated by using only General Relativity to describe the origin of the universe.  

 

More to follow as time permits.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

I'm looking forward to this when you have the time to get to it BAA.

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This gets to the crux of the matter in regards to the dishonest tactics by apologists. Craig doesn't argue just for a first cause deity. He is arguing specifically for the deity of the bible - all three of them! These deities all have testable claims, all of which fail, so even if they are right about some deity, we know it's not the bible deity.... unless he's super deceptive and inspired the bible to fool us all... which considering some bible versus I wouldn't put past such a deity.

 

This is spot on. Craig is very dishonest in his presentation of the KCM, in my opinion. He makes the argument, more or less as I presented it, and then waves his hands a bit, and declares that the God of the Bible exists. It's a massive non-sequitur, but he often gets away with it by participating in time controlled debates and "overloading" his opponent with his carefully rehearsed speeches.

 

I've always held that if you want to argue for the existence of God, then you should first define clearly what you mean by "God". The original form of the cosmological argument has as an advantage over the KCM in that it merely argues for a first cause of the universe, which is at least fairly a fairly accessible concept.

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I agree that without "began/begins to" in the major premise, the KCA will just prompt the question, And who created God? I also agree with when "began/begins to" is supplied, we run into the problem, what was the case "before" the Big Bang - since there seems to be no time if there is no motion, and you have to have a universe - space, at least - in order for anything to be in motion. 

 

It's well known that Aquinas did not think the KCA succeeds in proving God. That's why he didn't use it and instead formulated arguments that depend on a series of causes that all are in action at once.

 

Can't write more now; will be back! 

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I'm looking forward to this when you have the time to get to it BAA.

 

Ok Disillusioned,

 

Here is a link to a .pdf of Stephen Hawkings's book, A Brief History Of Time.  http://www.fisica.net/relatividade/stephen_hawking_a_brief_history_of_time.pdf  

The relevant passage is in chapter 3.  Before you read it D, it's vital to understand that General Relativity is a theory of classical physics and therefore strictly follows the rule of cause-and-effect.    

 

In 1965 I read about Penrose’s theorem that any body undergoing gravitational collapse must eventually form a singularity. I soon realized that if one reversed the direction of time in Penrose’s theorem, so that the collapse became an expansion, the conditions of his theorem would still hold, provided the universe were roughly like a Friedmann model on large scales at the present time. Penrose’s theorem had shown that any collapsing star must end in a singularity; the time-reversed argument showed that any Friedmann-like expanding universe must have begun with a singularity. For technical reasons, Penrose’s theorem required that the universe be infinite in space. So I could in fact, use it to prove that there should be a singularity only if the universe was expanding fast enough to avoid collapsing again (since only those Friedmann models were infinite in space).

 

During the next few years I developed new mathematical techniques to remove this and other technical conditions from the theorems that proved that singularities must occur. The final result was a joint paper by Penrose and myself in 1970, which at last proved that there must have been a big bang singularity provided only that general relativity is correct and the universe contains as much matter as we observe. There was a lot of opposition to our work, partly from the Russians because of their Marxist belief in scientific determinism, and partly from people who felt that the whole idea of singularities was repugnant and spoiled the beauty of Einstein’s theory. However, one cannot really argue with a mathematical theorem. So in the end our work became generally accepted and nowadays nearly everyone assumes that the universe started with a big bang singularity. It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe – as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account.

 

The key to the above lies in the sentence I've highlighted.

Hawking uses the word, 'prove' in the correct, mathematical sense.  Hawking and Penrose had proved the existence of a Big Bang singularity using ONLY the math of classical General Relativity.  But since modern cosmology is built upon the twin pillars of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, what they had proven can only be half the story and not a complete description of the origin of the universe.  Therefore, anyone who uses a Big Bang singularity in their argument for a God, must be doing so falsely.  That is, either through a faulty understanding of the science or though an act of deliberate falsehood.  

 

Here's what Alan Guth (the co-originator of Inflationary theory) has to say in the Glossary of his book, The Inflationary Universe : The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins.

 

WHITE HOLE:

The time-reversal of a black hole.  A white hole is a singularity from which matter emerges, but into which matter cannot enter.  The initial singularity of the standard (classical GR) Big Bang theory is an example of a white hole.  It can be shown that the creation of a new universe in the context of classical GR would require a white hole singularity, which means that it cannot be done, even in principle. 

 

And on page 265, here's what he has to say about the role of classical cause-and-effect when it comes to using a white hole singularity to create a universe.

 

"Since the beginning of time cannot be caused by something that preceded it, there is no way to cause a white hole."

 

It's at this point D, that the limitations of the natural universe are sidestepped by theists, who insert their supernatural uncaused cause (aka, the God of the Bible) into this gap.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fascinating, BAA, thank you!

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My friends, I have a question that might have some bearing on the KCA.

 

In my previous post, I described three elements that seem to be connected to each other like this.

 

G  --->  S  --->  U

 

God causes the Singularity and it causes the Universe.    

 

My question concerns the nature of the causal connection between S and U.

 

If something breaks the causal link between S and U what would this do to the KCA as a whole?

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

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BAA, I think that what you mention with respect to Hawking's reversal of his position on the singularity is very interesting. I was aware that he had reversed his position, but I haven't been keeping up with cosmology very much in recent years. To your knowledge, is there now a scientific consensus that there was not a singularity? More importantly, what is now posited by cosmologists as the most correct model of how the universe began? Are cosmologists saying that it did not begin at all? That would be very problematic for the KCA.

 

It seems to me that the relevant question to the KCA is not necessarily how the universe began to exist and what caused it, but whether it began to exist, and if it has any cause. If the big bang singularity is thrown out, but the scientific consensus remains that the universe, in some sense, began to exist, then I suspect that proponents of the KCA will simply adjust their defense of the second premise to fit the most recent scientific theory. But I still say that, in principle, I don't think that we can properly say that the universe began to exist in the usual sense. This seems to align with what Alan Guth is saying in the quotation you provided.

 

So in answer to your question regarding the causal link between the singularity and the universe, I suspect that unless we argue that the universe either did not begin to exist at all or that it does not require a cause at all (or both, as I attempted to do in the OP), then the KCA will simply adjust to whatever is currently being posited as being the cause of the universe. If, however, it can be shown that there is no need for the universe to have a cause, or that the universe did not begin to exist (or both), then the KCA loses its potency altogether.

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Another point worthy of discussion is the dichotomy between small things and larger things, i.e., the quantum arena and where you and I live.  Much of the physics which apply to us and our surroundings do not apply at the quantum level, and vice versa.  Time's arrow, causation, entropy, conservation of matter and energy apply to you and me but do not (or likely do not) apply at the quantum level.  Some of the physics which apply at the quantum level, such as the wave function and entanglement, do not apply to you and me or the matter and energy which surrounds us.

 

Add to this the fact that any law about cause and effect is merely a description of what we have observed in our world, not in the quantum world.  At best, it is a prediction.  That all effects have a cause is a claim, not an absolute fact.

 

Finally, whehter the Universe ever began to exist or has always existed, in one form or another, is an open question.

 

Thus, the KCA can be honestly restated as:

 

P1:  Everything that begins to exist has a cause, except when it doesn't.

P2:  The Universe may have begun to exist or it may have always existed.

C1:  I'm going to have pizza for dinner.

(and by theocratic extension)

C2:  Nevertheless, GODDIDIT.

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When I attended a lecture on cosmic inflation by Alexander Vilenkin, Vilenkin said that nothingness is a state that is inherently unstable but is not absolutely no thing whatsoever. I gather that Krauss et al say that a Quantum Vacuum State is technically a kind of nothing but that out of it could arise a Big Bang event.

 

??

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BAA, I think that what you mention with respect to Hawking's reversal of his position on the singularity is very interesting. I was aware that he had reversed his position, but I haven't been keeping up with cosmology very much in recent years. To your knowledge, is there now a scientific consensus that there was not a singularity? More importantly, what is now posited by cosmologists as the most correct model of how the universe began? Are cosmologists saying that it did not begin at all? That would be very problematic for the KCA.

 

Disillusioned,

 

I'm still grappling with the Hartle-Hawking No Boundary model, so I can't really make any informed comment  about it.  However, here is a link.  https://web.uvic.ca/~jtwong/Hartle-Hawking.htm

 

The generally accepted model is the LCDM-Inflationary one. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda-CDM_model 

You'll note that this Wiki page makes it clear that General Relativity (GR) works on cosmological (macroscopic) scales.  This was the very point I alluded to on Thursday, when I described how the KCA relies exclusively on GR to give it the 'gap' into which the theists insert their God.  If one describes the universe exclusively with GR, then the inevitable conclusion is that everything began with an initial singularity.   This is just the result that theists want.  

 

But since GR breaks down at the microscopic scale and yields to Quantum Mechanics (QM) a proper description of the universe at macroscopic and microscopic scales MUST use both GR and QM.  But theists don't want to use QM because the quantization of space-time would destroy the singularity.  GR and QM are mutually exclusive when it comes to a singularity.  GR says that one MUST occur and QM says that one CANNOT occur.  In QM, the fabric of space-time would be broken down in discrete quanta and so a singularity of infinitely small size (zero dimension) could never happen.  Clever theists know this and so they avoid using QM in the KCA, relying exclusively on GR to give them the singularity their argument needs.  

 

The LCDM-Inflation model requires something to initiate the Inflationary process.

Whatever this something is - is a subject of intense debate and much speculation.  The jury is still out on this one.  However, most theists are guilty of treating the observed beginning of our (the observable) universe AS the beginning of the Inflationary process.  Doing this violates the Copernican principle (CP).  No observer, in any location in the cosmos, should assume that their viewpoint is a special or privileged one.  By assuming that Inflation started here, 13.7 billion years ago, we make that very assumption.  Therefore, we are obliged to assume that the Inflationary process began before our particular region of the cosmos was 'inflated into existence' by it.  

 

So, the correct application of the Copernican principle yields a time before our observable universe came to be. 

We therefore have a new situation to deal with.  While something may have initiated the Inflationary process (the true beginning of everything) our small corner of the cosmos was probably preceded by billions or trillions of other regions like ours.  These are causally-disconnected universes that we can never know about.  However, the Copernican principle obliges us to treat them on a equal footing as the universe which we inhabit.  This new situation leaves us with two (2) beginnings.  A true beginning of Inflation, untold zillions of eons ago and the 'local' beginning of our universe, 13.7 billion years ago. 

 

For the record, it is entirely correct to use the words before and preceded, when talking about these other universes.

They did come before us and they did precede the origin of ours.  Even though time and space began to exist for us 13.7 billion years ago,  the true beginning of space and time occurred at the initiation of the Inflationary process.   Once again, our perceptions are not the be all and end all.  The Copernican principle requires us to set aside our viewpoint as special and to treat ALL viewpoints as equal and relative to each other.  What appears to be the beginning for us is not the true beginning of everything. 

 

 

 

It seems to me that the relevant question to the KCA is not necessarily how the universe began to exist and what caused it, but whether it began to exist, and if it has any cause. If the big bang singularity is thrown out, but the scientific consensus remains that the universe, in some sense, began to exist, then I suspect that proponents of the KCA will simply adjust their defense of the second premise to fit the most recent scientific theory. But I still say that, in principle, I don't think that we can properly say that the universe began to exist in the usual sense. This seems to align with what Alan Guth is saying in the quotation you provided.

 

Yes, the supporters of the KCA will adjust accordingly.

However, when it comes to LCDM-Inflation, they must acknowledge that the beginning of our universe is not the true beginning of the Inflationary process.  If they fail to do so, they violate the CP.  If they adjust and acknowledge that our universe is just one of billions, then they must also acknowledge that many of these other universes are just as life-friendly as ours.  Asserting that only ours is fine-tuned for life violates the CP... again.   Doing that would be raising our universe to a special and privileged status above all the others.  Forbidden!   They must also acknowledge that these universes are just as likely to give rise to intelligent life as ours is.  Asserting that we are the only intelligent beings in every universe that exists once again violates the CP.   Ultimately, to avoid violating the CP, they must acknowledge that there are billions of other universes, inhabited by intelligent beings.   Then, they must ask themselves if Jesus Christ sacrificed himself billions of times, for all of these beings or if he did it only once on Earth, for us.  If it's the latter, then their God has created billions upon billions of races of intelligent beings who have no hope of salvation.  Why would he do this?

 

Guth discounts the white hole singularity, because it's a physical impossibility, D.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_hole  "Despite the fact that such objects are permitted theoretically, they are not taken as seriously as black holes by physicists, since there would be no processes that would naturally lead to their formation, they could only exist if they were built into the initial conditions of the Big Bang."  But theists can employ the supernatural powers of their God to sidestep any natural limitations.  The catch is, if they do this then they cannot legitimately claim to be making an argument founded on science.  That which is not permitted by science cannot be declared to be scientifically valid.  

 

 

 

So in answer to your question regarding the causal link between the singularity and the universe, I suspect that unless we argue that the universe either did not begin to exist at all or that it does not require a cause at all (or both, as I attempted to do in the OP), then the KCA will simply adjust to whatever is currently being posited as being the cause of the universe. If, however, it can be shown that there is no need for the universe to have a cause, or that the universe did not begin to exist (or both), then the KCA loses its potency altogether.

 

Thank you.

My question concerns the relationship between direct causality ( A causes B )  the use of probability in a logical argument like the KCA.  Sdelsolray is paralleling my thinking by focusing on the dichotomy between GR and QM.  In GR, direct causality is king.  GR is deterministic.  But QM is totally different.  In QM there is no such thing as direct and one-to-one causality.  QM is non-deterministic.  In QM, there is only probability - not 100% certainty.

 

I'll illustrate by using my GSU sequence.

The KCA posits that there is a direct and one-to-one causal link between God, the Singularity and the Universe.  The first caused the second and the second caused the third.  Which can be displayed like this...

 

G  ---(is the only cause of)--->  S  ---(is the only cause of)--->  U

 

But, as we've already seen in this thread, direct and one-to-one causality applies only in General Relativity and GR itself only applies on macroscopic scales.   On the scale of Quantum Mechanics, there is no such thing as direct, one-to-one causality.  It's impossible to say that photon X caused proton Y to decay.   Instead, the location and energies of X and Y are assigned probabilities.  So, all that can be said is that there is a (insert value) probability that X caused Y to decay.  On the microscopic scale, probability is king.

 

Since the universe must have been microscopic when it emerged from singularity, it's no longer possible to say that S is the only cause of U.

Now, the sequence has to be changed.  To this...

 

G  ---(is the only cause of)--->  S  ---(might be the cause of)--->  U

 

The direct, one-on-one causal link between S and U has been broken.

Now it is only possible to assign a probability for that event.

 

How does this change the validity of the KCA, Disillusioned?

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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BAA,

There’s a lot to get into here, so forgive me if I miss something.

 

I’m somewhat familiar with the arguments of Hawking and Krauss regarding the origin of the universe and the necessity to consider QM in accounting for the Big Bang. Unless I’m mistaken, both Krauss and Hawking have argued that the universe, in its initial form, existed on the quantum scale.  Hence, it is not necessary to assume that it must have had a cause, since quantum particles come into existence (and pass out of existence), apparently uncaused, all the time. I’ve watched several lectures in which Krauss argues that all that is required is the quantum vacuum, out of which the “singularity” could have emerged without an apparent cause. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

This sort of response is somewhat problematic for the KCA, but I don’t think that it necessarily represents the death of it. I’ve heard it argued by theists that the quantum vacuum is definitely not “nothing”, and so, in a sense, even under this interpretation of the origin of the universe, the quantum vacuum can be said to be the “cause” of the universe. Hence, one can still ask what caused the quantum vacuum to exist. This seems tenuous to me, as I don’t know that the quantum vacuum can be said to require a cause. If nothing else, I think that this is a very potent response to the KCA.

 

More importantly, I think that this has very strong implications with respect to the first premise of the KCA. Recall that the KCA begins by asserting that anything which begins exist has a cause. Under quantum mechanics, this is flatly false. Unless, that is, one asserts that the quantum vacuum is a kind of all-encompassing cause of elementary particles, but in this case I don’t see what room there is left for God. So the upshot is that we’re still left with an argument which relies on an incorrect statement of the law of cause and effect. I think that this is quite problematic.

 

With respect to your question regarding the G--->S--->U causal chain, it seems to me that if we are uncertain about the link between S and U (ie, if there is only a certain probability that S caused U) then we must be equally uncertain about the existence of God. But the problem is that all of science deals in probabilities. QM is not unique in this. Don’t get me wrong here; I understand that QM is an inherently statistical theory of physics and can be distinguished from deterministic theories such as GR. But no scientific theory is, strictly speaking, proven, as you know. Whether or not a particular theory is statistical in nature, the probability that it describes nature correctly is not 100%. Even Newton’s laws of motion are only probably correct. That’s just how science works. So I’m not sure that this sort of objection will prove to be effective so long as S remains the most probable cause of U.

 

Now I’d like to explore what you wrote regarding inflationary cosmology and the copernican principle. This may seem like a tangent in that it is not directly related to the cosmological argument, but I think it is worth exploring nonetheless.

 

You argue strongly that the copernican principle requires us to assume that we are in no way unique. You say that the CP requires us to assume that there was a “time” before our observable universe came to be. From this you move to billions of prior universes, which you assert must “probably” exist. I’m not sure that this is logically sound.

 

How do we know of the copernican principle? Did we not discover it, here, in our little corner of the universe? So are we really justified in assuming that it must apply everywhere, at all times, and in all places? I’m not sure that we are.

 

According to the copernican principle, our position in the universe is not special in any way. So how is it that we feel justified in claiming to know of a principle which governs not only the entirety of the observable universe, but all universes that may or may not have preceded it? To assert that we, in our un-unique corner of our observable universe, have come to know of a principle which can be said to govern even those universes which are causally disconnected from ours, and of which we can never have any direct knowledge, seems to me to be to treat our position as decidedly special. This violates the CP! It seems to me that there is no reason that we should assume anything about the potential other universes which you mentioned that are causally disconnected from ours. They may or may not exist. We can have no knowledge of them. In particular, we can have no knowledge of whether or not the “probably” contain intelligent life. So I don’t think that this particular objection to the KCA is very strong.

 

This parallels another discussion that you and I had some time ago, which you may recall. We were talking about Krauss’ lecture a universe from nothing. In this lecture, he asserts that there will come a time in the history of our universe when inflation will have carried us so far that the evidence of the big bang will be imperceptible. The CBR will no longer be detectable. In this future, people (or some other species) will be able to correctly do science and arrive at entirely incorrect conclusions about the history of the universe. My immediate reaction upon watching this for the first time was to ask, if this is possible in principle under modern cosmology, then how is it that we are justified in assuming that we are not already in that position? Why should we assume that our current picture of the history of the universe is not already incorrect? Is this assumption not to violate the CP by treating our current viewpoint as “superior” to those of the hypothetical future “scientists”? I’m inclined to say that it is, and I’m also not sure about what this says about inflationary cosmology in general. If a scientific theory leads us to a place where we are obliged to question the validity of science altogether, what does that say about that particular scientific theory?

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BAA,

There’s a lot to get into here, so forgive me if I miss something.

 

I’m somewhat familiar with the arguments of Hawking and Krauss regarding the origin of the universe and the necessity to consider QM in accounting for the Big Bang. Unless I’m mistaken, both Krauss and Hawking have argued that the universe, in its initial form, existed on the quantum scale.  Hence, it is not necessary to assume that it must have had a cause, since quantum particles come into existence (and pass out of existence), apparently uncaused, all the time. I’ve watched several lectures in which Krauss argues that all that is required is the quantum vacuum, out of which the “singularity” could have emerged without an apparent cause. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

This sort of response is somewhat problematic for the KCA, but I don’t think that it necessarily represents the death of it. I’ve heard it argued by theists that the quantum vacuum is definitely not “nothing”, and so, in a sense, even under this interpretation of the origin of the universe, the quantum vacuum can be said to be the “cause” of the universe. Hence, one can still ask what caused the quantum vacuum to exist. This seems tenuous to me, as I don’t know that the quantum vacuum can be said to require a cause. If nothing else, I think that this is a very potent response to the KCA.

 

More importantly, I think that this has very strong implications with respect to the first premise of the KCA. Recall that the KCA begins by asserting that anything which begins exist has a cause. Under quantum mechanics, this is flatly false. Unless, that is, one asserts that the quantum vacuum is a kind of all-encompassing cause of elementary particles, but in this case I don’t see what room there is left for God. So the upshot is that we’re still left with an argument which relies on an incorrect statement of the law of cause and effect. I think that this is quite problematic.

 

With respect to your question regarding the G--->S--->U causal chain, it seems to me that if we are uncertain about the link between S and U (ie, if there is only a certain probability that S caused U) then we must be equally uncertain about the existence of God. But the problem is that all of science deals in probabilities. QM is not unique in this. Don’t get me wrong here; I understand that QM is an inherently statistical theory of physics and can be distinguished from deterministic theories such as GR. But no scientific theory is, strictly speaking, proven, as you know. Whether or not a particular theory is statistical in nature, the probability that it describes nature correctly is not 100%. Even Newton’s laws of motion are only probably correct. That’s just how science works. So I’m not sure that this sort of objection will prove to be effective so long as S remains the most probable cause of U.

 

Now I’d like to explore what you wrote regarding inflationary cosmology and the copernican principle. This may seem like a tangent in that it is not directly related to the cosmological argument, but I think it is worth exploring nonetheless.

 

You argue strongly that the copernican principle requires us to assume that we are in no way unique. You say that the CP requires us to assume that there was a “time” before our observable universe came to be. From this you move to billions of prior universes, which you assert must “probably” exist. I’m not sure that this is logically sound.

 

How do we know of the copernican principle? Did we not discover it, here, in our little corner of the universe? So are we really justified in assuming that it must apply everywhere, at all times, and in all places? I’m not sure that we are.

 

According to the copernican principle, our position in the universe is not special in any way. So how is it that we feel justified in claiming to know of a principle which governs not only the entirety of the observable universe, but all universes that may or may not have preceded it? To assert that we, in our un-unique corner of our observable universe, have come to know of a principle which can be said to govern even those universes which are causally disconnected from ours, and of which we can never have any direct knowledge, seems to me to be to treat our position as decidedly special. This violates the CP! It seems to me that there is no reason that we should assume anything about the potential other universes which you mentioned that are causally disconnected from ours. They may or may not exist. We can have no knowledge of them. In particular, we can have no knowledge of whether or not the “probably” contain intelligent life. So I don’t think that this particular objection to the KCA is very strong.

 

This parallels another discussion that you and I had some time ago, which you may recall. We were talking about Krauss’ lecture a universe from nothing. In this lecture, he asserts that there will come a time in the history of our universe when inflation will have carried us so far that the evidence of the big bang will be imperceptible. The CBR will no longer be detectable. In this future, people (or some other species) will be able to correctly do science and arrive at entirely incorrect conclusions about the history of the universe. My immediate reaction upon watching this for the first time was to ask, if this is possible in principle under modern cosmology, then how is it that we are justified in assuming that we are not already in that position? Why should we assume that our current picture of the history of the universe is not already incorrect? Is this assumption not to violate the CP by treating our current viewpoint as “superior” to those of the hypothetical future “scientists”? I’m inclined to say that it is, and I’m also not sure about what this says about inflationary cosmology in general. If a scientific theory leads us to a place where we are obliged to question the validity of science altogether, what does that say about that particular scientific theory?

 

Well, I would bat this right back at you D and ask, what choice do we have but to apply what we know to everywhere else?

 

This is an image of M51, which is estimated to be about 25 million light years away.

 

2017-03-13_58c61eb1750c4_M51_Pommier.jpg

 

We are therefore seeing it as it was long before humans evolved.

The CP requires us to assume that most of it's stars are orbited by systems of planets, just like the thousands we've discovered in the Milky Way.  But, even with the James Webb Space Telescope (launching next year) we will not be able to observe them.  When the European Extremely Large Telescope is completed in 2024, it won't be able to see them either.  It's quite likely that we will never be able to observe any planets in M51.  

 

NASA is proceeding on a parallel track with it's search for life in the solar system.

We have only one example of a living planet to go on, so when it comes to looking for life elsewhere, what else should we use as a template but that which we know?  We must necessarily assume that extraterrestrial life will be associated with liquid water, just as it is on Earth.  

 

I see no other way forward D, than to extrapolate from what we know and assume that it holds good until shown otherwise.

Given that all of science is tentative and that we can never obtain direct knowledge from 99.9% of this universe and 0% from any other one, these three facts require us to work by assumption or not work at all.  I hear your request for justification - but I simply cannot give it.  My position, even if you consider it unjustified and unjustifiable, is what I would call a pragmatic one.  We can either admit that there is insufficient justification for our assumptions and then switch everything off, lock up and go home.  Reality will not play ball with us and let us have the justifications that we desire.  Or, we can swallow the bitter pill of never being able to be as justified as we would like and carry on as is.  Carrying on in the knowledge that historically we haven't screwed up too badly by making the assumptions we have about reality.  Not the best or easiest option, but I can't see any other practical way forward... can you?

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

 

 

 

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I see no other way forward D, than to extrapolate from what we know and assume that it holds good until shown otherwise.

Given that all of science is tentative and that we can never obtain direct knowledge from 99.9% of this universe and 0% from any other one, these three facts require us to work by assumption or not work at all.  I hear your request for justification - but I simply cannot give it.  My position, even if you consider it unjustified and unjustifiable, is what I would call a pragmatic one.  We can either admit that there is insufficient justification for our assumptions and then switch everything off, lock up and go home.  Reality will not play ball with us and let us have the justifications that we desire.  Or, we can swallow the bitter pill of never being able to be as justified as we would like and carry on as is.  Carrying on in the knowledge that historically we haven't screwed up too badly by making the assumptions we have about reality.  Not the best or easiest option, but I can't see any other practical way forward... can you?

 

 

This is about the response that I make to this objection as well, BAA. We have to be sensible about these things. As you say, we should be pragmatic.

Please don't misunderstand me. I don't in any way think that we should throw the Copernican principle out. I certainly don't think that we should stop doing science. What I'm not sure about is how pragmatic it is to postulate about universes that are causally disconnected from ours. By definition, it seems to me that information about these universes can never be accessible to us, and can never be of use to us. So I don't think we should "lock up and go home", but I do think that we should be careful not to go too far.

 

Interestingly enough, I think that this is actually a fairly big problem for proponents of the KCA. The argument invokes science to attempt show that the universe had a definite beginning, and we just don't know that with any sort of certainty. The best we can do is make a model, but the model seems to have limitations. So this leaves us basically where sdelsolray said we were back in post #16. So much for the KCA.

 

ficino (and/or others), I'd be interested in looking into other forms of the cosmological argument if you're still interested. No rush though. When you are ready.

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As I said to BAA earlier, I don't think I have much to contribute when others are talking about physics and contemporary cosmology. I appreciate following what has been written so far.

 

I am very interested in cosmological arguments of the kind put forward by Thomas Aquinas. To get into them brings a lot of complexity, because they rely on an Aristotelian-based metaphysics. I think many people simply dismiss that and them as scientifically outmoded. Thomism still does command a lot of attention within Catholic circles, and I'm both an ex-Catholic and a trained classicist. So this stuff is up my alley, but it's fine if it's not up anyone else's! 

 

So, how are Thomistic cosmological arguments different from the KCA? In a nutshell, Aquinas did not think that one can demonstrate philosophically that the universe had a beginning. He thought that there might be an infinite series of causes ordered accidentally, though he denied that there can be an infinite series of causes ordered per se. A series of causes ordered accidentally would be, e.g., the ancestors of any of us. For Ari and Aq, the efficient cause of any human is the father, because the father's seed carries the form of human. (mom supplies matter) If you go back far enough, you have no more living ancestors. No ancestor has to continue to exert any generative causality over you once you're born.

 

A series of causes ordered per se is a series that is all active at once, so as to sustain any effect. An example found in Ari and Aq is a man holding a stick in his hand, by which he moves a rock. We can add that the rock moves a leaf. So man - hand - stick - rock - leaf. If the man stops moving his hand, the leaf stops being pushed by the rock. Another example is flute player and music. Player stops playing, music stops.

 

Aq thought that there might be an infinite series of accidental causes going backwards because earlier causes don't have to keep existing. So the causes are never actually infinite in number at the same time. He denied, though, that there can be a series of causes ordered per se that goes back infinitely. If all the causes in a per se series must operate at once, but there is no first cause that is uncaused, then we have an actual infinite, which Ari denied can exist.

 

That's the basis from which Aq develops his first three Ways in the Summa. 

 

Some contemporary Thomists think there's hope for the KCA, but others doubt that it will work for the above reasons. So they have to find a way to shoehorn Aristotelian metaphysics into an intellectual world where the science of physics is totally different. They think they can succeed at this.

 

Let me know whether anyone is still interested in this at this point!

 

Cheers, f

 

ETA: 1. I understand that a common objection to Aquinas is that Newtonian physics undermines his Aristotelian notion of the need for sustaining causes and movers that keep things in motion. Modern Thomists think they can set aside the obsolete science but keep the metaphysics. I haven't figured this out yet.

 2. Wm Lane Craig and others seem to like the KCA because they think they can establish that the universe had a cause. The Big Bang thesis wasn't available to those old Mutakallimun guys! But if the Big Bang thesis doesn't do the work that Craig et al think it does, then theists will have to go back to other arguments - like the Aristotelian ones, maybe ... 

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This is about the response that I make to this objection as well, BAA. We have to be sensible about these things. As you say, we should be pragmatic.

Please don't misunderstand me. I don't in any way think that we should throw the Copernican principle out. I certainly don't think that we should stop doing science. What I'm not sure about is how pragmatic it is to postulate about universes that are causally disconnected from ours. By definition, it seems to me that information about these universes can never be accessible to us, and can never be of use to us. So I don't think we should "lock up and go home", but I do think that we should be careful not to go too far.

 

Interestingly enough, I think that this is actually a fairly big problem for proponents of the KCA. The argument invokes science to attempt show that the universe had a definite beginning, and we just don't know that with any sort of certainty. The best we can do is make a model, but the model seems to have limitations. So this leaves us basically where sdelsolray said we were back in post #16. So much for the KCA.

 

ficino (and/or others), I'd be interested in looking into other forms of the cosmological argument if you're still interested. No rush though. When you are ready.

 

Disillusioned,

 

You and I have come to a similar crossroads as the blogger (Peter Woit) and his guests on this site... http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/

Woit is archly critical of any kind of multiverse.  He says that if these other universes are totally undetectable, then the theory that predicts them is totally un-falsifiable and as such it doesn't qualify as science.  The supporters of Inflation point to the confirmed predictions that have been made in this universe, arguing that it's possible to infer from this data that other universes do qualify as a properly-scientific prediction.  The nay-sayers counter this by arguing that without falsifiability you don't have physics - you have metaphysics.  And so the heated debate rages.

 

I'm sitting on the fence on this one and waiting to see if various projects will bring in results that will tip the balance one way or another.

There are a number of interesting ones in the pipeline.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

 

 

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Aq thought that there might be an infinite series of accidental causes going backwards because earlier causes don't have to keep existing. So the causes are never actually infinite in number at the same time. He denied, though, that there can be a series of causes ordered per se that goes back infinitely. If all the causes in a per se series must operate at once, but there is no first cause that is uncaused, then we have an actual infinite, which Ari denied can exist.

 

 

I'm interested in looking at this in more depth ficino, if you're up for it. You may have to bear with me; I'm not formally trained in this area, so I may be prone to blunder. I am somewhat familiar with Aquinas' and Aristotle's arguments, but there are parts that I don't quite understand.

 

I'm curious about what you say in the above quotation. How is it that Aquinas moves from the assertion that an infinite series of causes ordered per se is impossible to the assertion that there must be an uncaused first cause? In the example you gave, the man moves the stick, the stick moves the rock, and the rock moves to leaf. So, in a sense, the man is the "first cause". But he is not himself uncaused. Moreover, as you've already said, his cause does not need to keep existing, so we avoid the need for an actual infinite. Am I missing something here?

 

I'm going to review Aquinas' arguments and try to bring something more substantive to the discussion in the next couple of days.

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Hey guys, while we're sitting on the fence, some time spent on Aquinas' arguments AGAINST a beginning of the world, and FOR an eternal universe, are here in the Summa Contra Gentiles, book 2, chapter 39. There are some errors in the English, but you get the idea. Aquinas of course holds that God created the universe and with it, time, but he emphasizes revelation as the ultimate source of that doctrine, not philosophy or science. So ch. 39 is directed against the Kalam. He thinks that philosophical arguments that posit a beginning of the universe are not decisive.

 

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles2.htm#38

 

Cheers, f

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