Cosmological Argument – Part I

Two of the most effective evidences for the existence of God are the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments.  Logic and Light has touched on both of these in earlier posts, but it is important to look at each one specifically to fully understand their strength, and to refute the counter-claims of those that reject them.  So, over a series of articles, Logic and Light will explore these two arguments, starting with the Cosmological.

The Cosmological Argument Summarized

The cosmological argument has taken several forms throughout the years, but the most effective one seems to be the so-called Kalam version.  Simply put, it can be summarized as:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause beyond itself
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause beyond itself
  4. The most reasonable cause of the universe is God

The first three assertions are logical and easily flow from one to the other.  The fourth statement is less obviously true on the surface, but is also necessitated by several implied truths of the previous statements, as we will see.  However, each of the four claims are or have been questioned to some extent by those that do not believe in God.  After we look at the reasons to accept these premises, we will examine the challenges, as well.

Premise 1: “Whatever begins to exist has a cause beyond itself.”

Premise One is pretty easy to justify.  It is logically impossible for something to cause itself before it exists.  It is also impossible by definition for “nothing” to cause “something” since “nothing” is the lack of anything at all.  Therefore, it cannot possess causal power.  Premise One is built on a solid, rational foundation.

Premise 2: “The universe began to exist.”

Until the emergence of the “Big Bang Theory” in the 1920’s and 1930’s, there was philosophical and scientific debate about whether the universe had existed eternally or not.  Based on Aristotelian philosophy, much of secular science argued that the universe had no beginning.  Even Albert Einstein initially supported an eternal universe and invented his famous cosmological constant to maintain this belief despite his general theory of relativity pointing to an expanding or contracting (and therefore non-eternal) universe.1

However, the emergence of the Big Bang model of cosmology has almost all scientists (secular and religious) agreeing on a universe with a distinct beginning at a particular moment.  While secular scientists, “Old Earth” creationists, and “Young Earth” creationists disagree on the potential timeframe, they agree on an actual beginning.

According to the Big Bang model, the entire universe, including space, time, mass/energy, and even the laws of physics came into being and expanded rapidly from a dimensionless “singularity” of infinite density at a specific time in the past2.  Consistent with the Big Bang model, there is much evidence that supports a finite, non-eternal universe:

  • The universe is expanding in all directions, as if from a definite beginning
  • The existence of “background” radiation throughout the entire universe is consistent with, and predicted by, the Big Bang model.3
  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the universe’s “usable” energy is decreasing and being lost as heat and radiation. Since the usable energy is finite and declining, but not yet exhausted, the universe cannot be eternal.

Philosophically, another very strong reason to believe in a non-eternal universe is to avoid an “infinite regress.”  Basically, if the universe was eternal, we could go infinitely into the past.  That would also mean we would have to travel through an infinite number of time periods to arrive at today.  However, traversing an infinite number of time periods is, by definition, impossible.  As we are in fact at today, the universe’s existence cannot extend infinitely into the past!

When the scientific and philosophical evidence is evaluated honestly, one has to admit that the universe had a definite beginning.  Or at a minimum, that all available evidence points to a beginning.  Therefore, Premise Two is also on a strong foundation.

Premise 3: “Therefore, the universe has a cause beyond itself.”

Premise Three is logically necessary if numbers One and Two are correct.  Since we have established that they are on solid footing, and are the most reasonable positions, we must accept number Three.  Critics have devised some very creative arguments to deny Premise Three, but as we will see later, they all fail.

Premise 4: “The most reasonable cause of the universe is God.”

On the surface, Premise Four is the most debatable.  Theoretically, there could be other causes besides God.  But when we closely examine the requirements of Premises One, Two, and Three, God becomes our only real option.

First of all, from Premise One, we know that whatever caused the universe, must itself be uncaused.  It cannot be a “contingent” being in any way or we will have an “infinite regress” of causes.  At some point, the causes must end with a non-contingent, self-existent, first cause.  Since this first cause must have no beginning, it must be eternal and exist outside of time.

From Premises Two and Three, we know that the first cause must be immensely powerful.  The ability to create the entire universe, including space, time, mass/energy, and the laws of physics is beyond our comprehension.

Creation is even more impressive when we consider the First Law of Thermodynamics.  This law states that mass/energy can change forms, but cannot be created or destroyed, at least not by any known or natural means.  Yet we are surrounded by unimaginable amounts of mass/energy that were in fact created at a specific moment.  Since such creation predates the existence of and violates the natural laws of physics, it is by definition, supernatural.

Finally, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and dive into the Teleological Argument (The Argument from Design) but one key point needs to be made.  The immense complexity and beauty of creation, including physics, chemistry, quantum mechanics, biology, DNA, etc. strongly implies a vast intelligence behind it.

When we look at the necessary implications of Premises One through Three, we are left with a cause to the universe that looks to be, by necessity, uncaused, self-existent, eternal, unimaginably powerful, supernatural, and intelligent.  That sounds a lot like a basic description of God!  Therefore, Premise Four is very rational and appears to be the most likely conclusion based on what we know scientifically and philosophically.

There is one final point that needs to be made.  The Cosmological Argument only points us to the necessary existence of a God, not necessarily the God of Christianity.  While the description of the “Cosmological God” is consistent with Christianity, by itself, it does not prove Christianity true.  That is why Logic and Light has spent so much time discussing the historicity, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Combining the Cosmological Argument with what is known about Christ points to the truth of Christianity.

We next turn our attention to the arguments that some use to counter the Cosmological Argument…

Notes:

  1. NASA website: https://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/uni_accel.html
  2. Steven Hawking: http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html (NOTE:  Hawking describes the Big Bang as the event where everything began.  However, he then describes his “no boundary” theory coupled with “imaginary time” to refute a need for God.  However, the “no boundary” theory has recently been debunked by newer models.  See https://phys.org/news/2017-06-universe-big.html.  God cannot be so easily removed!)
  3. NASA website: https://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_tests_cmb.html
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