The Cosmological Argument is perhaps the most commonly used argument for the existence of God. As such, it has been subjected to intense critical analysis by a variety of non-theist sources. The purpose of this article is to explain the Cosmological Argument, and to offer rebuttals to common atheistic objections.
The raw, simplistic version of the Cosmological Argument involves three premises:
1.) Everything which begins to exist requires a cause.
2.) The universe began to exist.
3.) Therefore, the universe requires a cause.
One must remember that if (1) and (2) are true, then (3) follows logically and inescapably. Therefore, the only way to refute this argument is to call into question either (1) or (2). However, it is fairly obvious that these three premises do not necessarily lead to the conclusion that God is the cause of the universe. That is why theists generally attempt to go from (3) and then add on additional arguments for why God is the only reasonable explanation for the creation of the universe. I will do this later on in the article.
Before I begin addressing atheistic objections, it is important to know what exactly I am stating when I claim that God exists. I have provided a brief definition HERE. I will mainly be attempting to demonstrate the definite existence of the “minimalist” definition of God.
Atheistic objections to the Cosmological Argument are quite varied. Below, I list all of the major objections.
A. The universe has existed eternally.
B. Our universe is merely the result of a “Super-cosmos” spewing off smaller universes.
C. It is not true that everything which begins to exist requires a cause.
D. Stephen Hawking’s Quantum Cosmology refutes the Cosmological Argument.
E. If it is true that everything which begins to exist requires a cause, then God requires a cause also.
F. Even if all three premises are true, the first cause is not necessarily God.
G. The Cosmological Argument is just circular reasoning since the only possible eternally existing entity is God.
H. The Cosmological Argument is merely God-of-the-gaps.
I. The mere existence of atheistic objections demonstrates that God is not necessary.
Now, I will review each and every objection and attempt to show that it fails to affect the conclusion of the Cosmological Argument.
This used to be the most common objection against the Cosmological Argument, but it has lost some popularity recently due to scientific findings. Unfortunately for the non-theist, nearly all of the scientific data confirms that the universe had a beginning. Although the Steady-State model used to be considered a scientifically tenable theory, I will not critique it unless upon request. The only seriously considered scientific theory which purports to allow an eternally existing universe is the oscillating model. I will now show a healthy sampling of the numerous scientific evidences against this failing theory. (For an explanation of the oscillating universe model, please see Appendix 1)
a.) There is no evidence that the universe does oscillate. Lacking any evidence for the theory, it is at most an ad hoc suggestion that has a possibility of being true. As such, there is no real reason for an individual to prefer the oscillating model over any other model of the universe’s origins.
b.) There is no known mechanism for a supposed “bounce back” after a theoretical “big crunch.” As the late Professor Tinley of Yale articulated: “even though the mathematics say that the universe oscillates, there is no known physics to reverse the collapse and bounce back to a new expansion. The physics seems to say that those models start from the Big Bang, expand, collapse, then end.” 1 (Note: I realize that the absence of a proposed mechanism does not necessarily mean that there is no potential mechanism. Perhaps, in the future, scientists will think of a possible source for such an astounding physical event. However, the fact that the oscillating model cannot even produce a mechanism is further evidence that the theory ought to be rejected.)
c.) Recent measurements by scientists have shown that the universe is expanding at “escape velocity”. This means that the universe is moving too quickly to ever collapse back into a “big crunch”, thus making the oscillating model impossible. According to scientists Sandage and Tammann, “Hence, we are forced to decide that . . . it seems inevitable that the Universe will expand forever”; they conclude, therefore, “the Universe has happened only once.” 2
d.) Thermodynamic properties of the universe dictate that, even if the universe did oscillate, an eternal universe could not occur. This is because, the farther back in time one goes, the shorter the time span of oscillations, or rotations. Thus, the universe could not be eternal. A scientific team under Duane Dicus came to the following conclusion: “The effect of entropy production will be to enlarge the cosmic scale, from cycle to cycle. . . . Thus, looking back in time, each cycle generated less entropy, had a smaller cycle time, and had a smaller cycle expansion factor than the cycle that followed it.” 3 Based on this data, Novikov and Zeldovich stated: “The multicycle model has an infinite future, but only a finite past.” 4 Thermodynamics- the most overriding laws governing the universe, prevent oscillating models from working. 5
e.) According to the best estimates the universe still has only about half the mass needed for re-contraction. This includes the combined total of both luminous matter and non-luminous matter (found in galactic halos), as well as any possible contribution of neutrinos to total mass. 6 (Note: Some may claim that dark matter accounts for this difference, but, as it stands, dark matter is largely theoretical and mysterious. Until the scientific standing of dark matter is on solid ground, I believe that this particular scientific evidence against the oscillating universe stands. Moreover, even if the universe has a significant amount of dark matter, it is unlikely that this matter will be able to account for the large difference between the mass needed for re-contraction and the mass we observe.)
A firm conclusion can be made based on this scientific evidence. It is plain to see with the previous evidences alone that the oscillating model is untenable. There is no actual support for the theory, and the theory also contradicts several well-known scientific facts. Due to these considerations, I don’t think the atheistic objection that the universe is eternal is on a solid foundation.
However, there is an additional flaw with the proposed oscillating model. The oscillating model assumes that an infinite number of events can actually exist. However, this is by no means certain. The problem is that an infinite number of events leads to logical absurdities. This problem has been articulated by many esteemed philosophers. 7
The problem of an actual infinite number of things becomes obvious when one considers an analogy. Say, for instance, that there was a line of people waiting to ride a roller coaster that was infinitely long. In other words, an infinity of people are anxiously waiting to ride this new attraction. Now, let’s say that half of the people in this line decide that the wait is too long and they all head over to wait in the line for the Merry-Go-Round. Now, several inconsistencies appear. Even though half of the people left, the line for the roller coaster is still infinitely long! Additionally, the Merry-Go-Round also has an infinite number of people waiting in line! So now, there are two rides with an infinite number of people, instead of only one, even though the only thing that has happened is the transfer of half of the people from the roller coaster to the Merry-Go-Round. As is easily seen, this scenario has lead to numerous inconsistencies and contradictions.
Now, this analogy shows clearly that an actual infinite number of events cannot exist. Obviously, if the universe existed eternally, then there would have been an infinite amount of events. Therefore, it is concluded that the universe cannot be eternal. This serves only to reinforce the scientific evidences mentioned earlier.
Another related objection that a few atheists propose is the supposed possibility that, even though the universe as we know it has not existed forever, it is nonetheless possible that the universe has existed forever in some form. The atheist may claim that before the supposed “Big Bang”, the universe had existed forever in a condensed plasmic state. For example, Secular Web denizen Kyle Gerkin argues:
“The Big Bang tells us the universe began to expand approximately 14 billion years ago. But it existed prior to expansion in a form of unbelievably condensed matter and energy. When did this incredible ball of matter/energy come into being? For all we know, it could’ve been eternal.” 8
The problem with this hypothesis is that it claims that the condensed matter and energy could exist for an eternity and then suddenly create the universe, but this is just confused. There is no logical way that an eternally existing ball of matter could spontaneously create something. Since this ball of condensed matter and energy had existed forever, there is no reason that it would have suddenly created the universe a mere 14 billion years ago, rather, it would have created it before that. In fact, it would have created our universe an infinity ago. Either the conditions that would lead to the creation of the universe would have to be present for eternity, or the conditions that would lead to the creation of the universe would never exist. Thus, our universe would have to be eternal, and then we have to deal with the numerous scientific and philosophical objections that contradict the eternal universe hypothesis.
With both the philosophical and scientific evidences in mind, it is clear to see that the atheistic objection A (the universe has existed eternally) should be rejected.
B. Our universe is merely the result of a “Super-cosmos” spewing off universes.
This objection seems to be an extension of the old “our universe has existed eternally argument”. However, instead of our specific universe existing forever, other “Super-universes” or what-not have existed forever, and have directly resulted in the creation of the universe we are familiar with.
Now, it must first be mentioned that these theories totally lack evidentiary support. In fact, they seem to be completely ad hoc. It is not even theoretically possible for us to locate evidence for the existence of some supercosmos. So, in this regard, how can this theory possibly be any better than the God hypothesis? (Note: It is often argued that God is not an appropriate explanation because men can never know the mind of God, or can never “investigate” God. If this is true, though, then the atheist must admit that this particular objection fails, because there seems to be no way for us to investigate any alternate universes or “Super-cosmos” if they do in fact exist. Of course, it is false that God is not an appropriate explanation, which I demonstrate later on in this article.)
However, the real problem with these “Super-cosmos” lies not with their ad hoc nature, but with the fact that they are logically contradictory.
a.) Firstly, the “Super-universe” that created the universe we inhabit must have existed eternally, or it would require a cause. So, in order for this atheistic hypothesis to work, we must suppose that it is logically possible for an actually infinite number of events to occur. As shown previously, however, this is a rather dubious suggestion.
b.) The greates problem with the “Super-universe” is that it would have created our universe an infinity ago. If the “Super-cosmos” has existed forever, and it has the ability to create universes, then it would have never created our universe a mere 15 billion years ago as some suggest. If 15 billion years ago, why not 16? The conditions for creating the universe would have already existed for an eternity. There is simply no way that the “Super-cosmos” could create our universe unless our universe has existed eternally. Of course, there are numerous scientific problems with the hypothesis that our universe has existed forever.
It is quite clear then, that the “Super-cosmos” hypothesis alluded to by some atheists is fatally flawed and totally lacking evidential support. In fact, it is merely an added hypothesis tossed in the mix to support the idea of an eternally existing universe. Rather than solving any of the problems inherent in the idea of an eternal universe, this theory compounds them. Due to this, we are justified in totally disregarding this objection.
C. It is not true that everything which begins to exist requires a cause.
Perhaps surprisingly, this is one of the most common objections to the Cosmological Argument today. However, its popularity has not always been as prevalent. This objection used to never even be considered. 9 In my view, this objection has become popular recently primarily because science and philosophy have conclusively shown that the universe began to exist, essentially leaving this objection as the only actual atheistic alternative other than ignorance.
With this objection, atheists are claiming that something can come from nothing for no reason. This may come as a surprise to some, because it seems intuitively obvious (at least to me) that nothing will never create something. Surely this is hard to take seriously. For, if literally nothing exists, how is it going to create something? Nothing has no power to do anything. It has no resources to “distribute” for the creation of something, and it has no reason to create something.
Certainly, anybody who would claim that it is possible for nothing to create something for no reason would shoulder the burden of proof. The most common attempt to demonstrate that this is possible is in “quantum vacuum fluctuations”. 10
Before we consider quantum vacuum fluctuations, however, is there any reason to hold that premise 1 is true? Is there any reason to agree with the statement that everything which begins to exist requires a cause? I think there are at least three good reasons:
a.) We have a vast experience of causes and effects. Every event we observe or hear has a cause. When a rational man hears a thud in the next room, he does not confidently declare, “That noise just happened for no reason.” Rather, he declares that there is a reason that the suspicious noise was made, even if he has no evidence whatsoever that there was actually an event that caused a thud. The reason we feel confident to assert that the thud had a cause is because every single event that we investigate has an underlying cause. As such, it is rational to believe the first premise of the Cosmological Argument on our own experience alone.
b.) This premise seems to be an inherently obvious truth. In fact, it seems to be implied by the nature of the term “nothing.” If “nothing” had the ability to create “something”, then would it be “nothing” at all? Nothing has no resources to contribute to the creation of something, and absolutely no motivation to create something. Why, one must ask, would it create something? For no reason? Surely one must consider it more rational to believe that nothing will create nothing, rather than that nothing will create something. Such a concept seems to introduce a new kind of “nothing” altogether. Applying the principle of Occam’s Razor 11, it would be much simpler to posit that nothing created nothing, rather than that something came from nothing. There is no real reason to believe that something can come from nothing, and even if it could, there is no reason to think that it would.
c.) Atheists are fond of asserting that the positing of God will result in the breakdown of the scientific method. If this is so, then it is even truer that the postulation that something occurred for no reason would be damaging to science. Science is all about discovering the underlying causes for events. If we are to exclaim, “That event just happened because it did”, we are certainly not expanding upon our knowledge of how the universe operateds. Using the God hypothesis is actually an answer (as I demonstrate later on in this article). However, boldly exclaiming that “it just happened” is not an actual answer by anyone’s standards. To exclaim that something can come from nothing for no reason is simply the breakdown of rational thought and analysis.
That said, it is indeed imperative that we investigate any and all claims which purport to allow the creation of something from nothing for no reason, particularly ones that provide evidence that this is indeed possible. This brings us to “quantum vacuum fluctuations”.
Now, according to these theories, our universe was created by a quantum vacuum fluctuation that occurred in the so-called vacuum. In this case, the vacuum is an infinitely large “universe-as-a-whole” that causes the spawning of multiple mini-universes. Just as sub-atomic particles supposedly emerge from the vacuum, our universe could also emerge as a result of a quantum fluctuation. So even though there was originally absolutely nothing, our universe came about as a result of a quantum fluctuation. (This is just a summary of the theory, for a more comprehensive analysis, please see Appendix 2). Several objections can be urged against this theory.
a.) It is untrue that the quantum vacuum is “nothing”. The so-called “vacuum” is a “sea of continually forming and dissolving particles, which borrow energy from the vacuum for their brief existence.” 12 This has been confirmed by many scientists, including proponents of the quantum fluctuation paradigm. Davies, a proponent of this theory, admits: “The processes described here do not represent the creation of matter out of nothing, but the conversion of pre-existing energy into material form.” 13 As Kanitscheider points out, “From the philosophical point of view it is essential to note that the foregoing is far from being a spontaneous generation of everything from naught, but the origin of that embryonic bubble is really a causal process leading from a primordial substratum with a rich physical structure to a materialized substratum of the vacuum.” 14 Therefore, the term “vacuum” in this case is misleading, because in actuality the vacuum is more than nothing. This throws a wrench into the whole quantum fluctuation scheme. If anything at all can be said to have existed prior to the creation of the universe, then that which existed would have existed forever and it would have caused the creation of our universe an infinity ago. Redefining “nothing” to mean “something” is no more than semantic gymnastics and obfuscation. 15 Therefore, the quantum “vacuum” which atheists use as a parallel for the their atheistic cosmology is in fact not a successful example of something coming from nothing.
b.) These theories contradict observations. Given infinite past time, there will be an infinite amount of times in which a vacuum fluctuation caused the creation of a universe. Such an infinite amount of universes, all expanding, would result in the collision of universes, which is something we do not observe. This is unavoidable, unless one posits an expanding universe-as-a-whole, but then we are right back to where we started, because this universe-as-a-whole would require a cause.
c.) Finally, there is no reason to suppose that the “quantum fluctuation” hypothesis is better than the God hypothesis anyway. This hypothesis involves the existence of a wider “universe-as-a-whole”, which is by nature unknowable. Clearly, this theory is in no better shape than the hypothesis that God created the universe. It seems that, even if there was no evidence against the “quantum fluctuation” hypothesis, the decision as to whether it was God or a quantum fluctuation that caused the universe would have to be made based upon personal preference.
As a side note, it is commonly claimed that quantum vacuum fluctuations and other quantum events such as the motions of elementary particles that are supposedly without cause undermine premise 1 whether or not they can be forged into a successful cosmological model. However, at most this shows that premise 1 should be slightly altered, or, the definition of “begin” clarified. For the form of beginning which is important to the argument is “absolute beginning.” Perhaps the supposed acausality of elementary particle motion shows that things can “begin” to exist in that they can change position, speed, or form without cause, but this really does not even begin to increase the plausibility of the universe literally arising from nothing.
We therefore see that premise 1 (Everything which begins to exist requires a cause) is well-supported for a few powerful reasons, and we also see that the attempt to avert the truth of this premise has failed.
D. Stephen Hawking’s Quantum Cosmology refutes the Cosmological Argument
An interesting cosmology, known as the Hartle-Hawking model, was articulated in Stephen Hawking’s best seller, A Brief History of Time. This cosmology purports to eliminate the need for a First Cause, even while maintaining that the universe has not existed forever. If true, the Hartle-Hawking model undermines the need for the God hypothesis.
Unfortunately for the non-theist, a demonstration of the bad metaphysical and philosophical assumptions employed in order to eliminate the need of a First Cause undermines this model. Namely, the Hartle-Hawking model uses the concept of “imaginary time” by plugging numbers such as the square root of – 3 into equations. Since there is no real number for the square root of – 3, it is referred to as an imaginary number. The Hartle-Hawking model uses these numbers in order to create a concept called “imaginary time”, which, when plugged into the equations, eliminates the need for a First Cause. However, this whole line of thinking is just confused. The positing of imaginary time is bad metaphysics. What are we supposed to make of the concept of “imaginary time”? Those who promote the Hartle-Hawking model have the burden of proof to enlighten us as to what this combination of words really means. Otherwise, we might as well say that “blarks” eliminate the need for a First Cause. Postulating “imaginary time” is akin to postulating “imaginary inches”. Just as “imaginary inches” is totally useless as an actual concept, so is supposed “imaginary time.”
However, Hawking counters that imaginary time is “a well-defined mathematical concept.” 16 Of course, it is apparent to many that a mathematical concept does not always relate to reality. The late Sir Herbert Dingle argued this effectively:
“Suppose we want to find the number of men required for a certain job under certain conditions. Every schoolboy knows such problems, and he knows that he must begin by saying: ‘Let x = the number of men required.’ But that substitution introduces a whole range of possibilities that the nature of the original problem excludes. The mathematical symbol x can be positive, negative, integral, fractional, irrational, imaginary, complex, zero, infinite, and whatever else the fertile brain of the mathematician may devise. The number of men, however, must be simply positive and integral. Consequently, when you say, ‘Let x = the number of men required’ you are making a quite invalid substitution, and the result of the calculation, though entirely possible for the symbol, might be quite impossible for the men.
“Every elementary algebra book contains such problems that lead to quadratic equations, and these have two solutions, which might be 8 and –3, say. We accept 8 as the answer and ignore –3 because we know from experience that there are no such things as negative men, and the only alternative interpretation-that we could get the work done by subtracting three men from our gang-is obviously absurd….
“So we just ignore [one] of the mathematical solutions, and quite overlook the significance of that fact-namely, that in the language of mathematics we can tell lies as well as truths, and within the scope of mathematics itself there is no possible way of telling one from the other. We can distinguish them only by experience or by reasoning outside the mathematics, applied to the possible relation between the mathematical solution and its supposed physical correlate.” 17
Therefore, we see that the mere fact that imaginary time is a “well-defined mathematical concept” does nothing to support the notion that it corresponds to reality. But, once imaginary numbers are converted back to real numbers, the First Cause for the universe once again becomes necessary, and we are forced to admit that God is the best answer to the question of why the universe exists.
Another problem with plugging imaginary numbers into the time dimension in these equations is that it forces one to recognize time as another spatial dimension. However, this is more bad metaphysics, since space and time are inherently different. According to Craig:
“Space is ordered by a relation of betweenness: for three points x, y, and z on a spatial line, y is between x and z. But time is ordered in addition by a unique relation of earlier/later than: for two moments t1 and t2 in time, t1 is earlier than t2, and t2 is later than t1.” 18
Thus, it is seen that time and space are distinct. Therefore, the Hartle-Hawking model receives a further blow. Given that the theory involves at least two metaphysical absurdities, we are justified in rejecting the Hartle-Hawking model as a valid cosmology.
A brief side note should be mentioned. The name of Stephen Hawking carries with it a massive amount of respect and perhaps even polemical value. He is possibly regarded as the smartest man on the planet, for good reasons. He is surely a brilliant man deserving of high praise. But this does not mean that his theories must be accepted without a grain of salt. Even the most brilliant men are prone to make mistakes or reach unfounded conclusions, particularly due not to the scientific data, but the philosophical and metaphysical assumptions present in their theories. As we have seen, the Hartle-Hawking model presents serious metaphysical assumptions that remain unverified and must not go unchecked. We must not simply stand back and assume that “Hawking’s got it all figured out”. I only mention this because I have been accused of “implying that Stephen Hawking is an idiot”. I have attempted to do no such thing here. Rather, I have merely attempted to show that Hawking’s model is undermined by bad metaphysical assumptions that have remained unverified.
E. If it is true that everything which begins to exist requires a cause, then God requires a cause also.
This objection fails to recognize that God has existed eternally and thus requires no cause. Theists don’t argue that “Whatever exists requires a cause”, but rather, “Whatever begins to exist requires a cause”. Therefore, since God never began to exist, He does not require a cause.
Most atheists are willing to grant that if God does exist, then He has existed forever, since this seems to be one of the traditional characteristics of God (I also include this characteristic in my DEFINITION). Theists have always defined God as existing eternally, to the best of my knowledge. Eternality is also a characteristic of necessary beings, which is a title most have bestowed upon God, if indeed He does exist. It is not question begging to assert that God is eternal due to His status as a necessary being, because atheists in the past used to identify the universe as a necessary being. That was, of course, before the discovery of the numerous scientific and philosophical evidences against the supposed eternality of the universe. Therefore, the atheist has no valid ground to declare that pronouncing God as eternally existing involves special pleading.
Additionally, it is argued that, if one admits that God does not require a cause if He does not have a beginning, then we should be within rational confines to claim that the universe did not have a beginning and does not require a cause. However, as already mention, there are numerous philosophical and scientific evidences against the eternality of the universe. This was already shown in my refutation of objection A.
The atheistic objection here is groundless, and is based upon a misunderstanding of the theistic position.
Here the atheist claims that, even if all of the premises of the Cosmological Argument are true, there is no reason to suppose that God is the only reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe. I will argue that the nature of the First Cause in this instance requires exactly the same entity as outlined by my minimalist definition of God. For convenience, I will list the three major points of my minimalist definition of God here, and I will then demonstrate that the First Cause in question requires such characteristics.
1.) An entity that is above and beyond the laws of the universe, and not subject to the laws of the universe.
2.) An eternally existing entity.
3.) An entity with the ability to make decisions.
We’ll look at each of these in turn.
1.) An entity that is above and beyond the laws of the universe, and not subject to the laws of the universe.
Since the universe contains physical laws, the entity that created the universe would have to be separate from these laws. Therefore, the entity would be operating in a different realm, and would not be subject to the laws of the universe it created. The universe could not be created by its own physical laws, or else it would be creating itself, which is a notion I have refuted previously. Therefore, it seems that this characteristic of God is a necessary component of the First Cause entity in question.
2.) An eternally existing entity.
As mentioned earlier, it is necessary that the First Cause entity is eternal, or else that entity would require a cause itself, based on the principle “Everything which begins to exist requires a cause”. It therefore is true that the First Cause entity in question must have existed eternally, otherwise leading to an infinite regression of events, which is a logical impossibility.
3.) An entity with the ability to make decisions.
This is the most important point with regards to the identification of the First Cause entity. If it can be shown that the entity responsible for the creation of the universe makes decisions, you are basically forced to acknowledge the existence of God in one form or another. A naturalistic cause does not have the ability to make decisions. Therefore, if this point is proven, it seems inevitable that we will be forced to admit that God is the only logical possibility for the First Cause in question, or at least the most plausible possibility.
Such a justification of this characteristic is possible. The First Cause in question requires an entity with the ability to make decisions, because an eternally existing cause without such an ability is not capable of creating something unique. This is because, since it has existed forever, the naturally occurring cause would have already created the universe. An automated, inanimate cause cannot will something into existence, because such a cause only responds to conditions. Since it would have existed forever, such conditions would have been met an eternity ago and our universe would have already existed forever. Either that or the conditions would have never been met, and our universe would not exist. On the other hand, God has the ability to make decisions, and thus can “will” something into existence even in the absence of any automated condition to do so. An inanimate, eternally existing cause cannot create something unique, while an entity that is able to make decisions can.
This concept can be difficult to grasp. Imagine that there was a giant lever, and if this lever was pulled down, the universe would be created, if it is left as it is, the universe will not be created. There are three possibilities for this lever:
1. It may never be pulled, so that no universe is created.
2. It may be pulled from eternity (in other words, it is always pulled down).
3. It may be pulled at a certain time, say, fifteen billion years ago.
Option 1 is false because the universe exists. Option 2 is theoretically possible, but it would result in an eternally existing universe, which has been demonstrated to be false. This leaves Option 3. How could this lever be pulled down after waiting for an eternity at a certain time? Let us postulate a Rude Goldberg machine, in which an extraordinarily complex chain reaction lasting trillions of years leads to the eventual pull of the lever. Could this explain the origin of the universe, in theory?
No, because even an extremely long Rude Goldberg machine would not cause the universe to be created a finite time ago. From the standpoint of eternity, a machine that takes up 10 trillion years has no effect. Infinity – 10 trillion = Infinity. There is simply no way for the machine to effect the infinity. Thus, even a Rude Goldberg machine lasting 10 trillion years would result in Option 2, which is untenable. Thus, a personal agent with the free decision to create the universe (or, to follow the example, pull the lever) is required.
At least three characteristics of God line up perfectly and essentially with the necessary characteristics of the First Cause, including the all-important attribute of being a personal agent with free will capacities. We are forced to conclude that God is the only reasonable solution to the question of why the universe exists, if in fact the three premises of the Cosmological Argument are valid.
G. The argument involves circular reasoning since the only possible eternally existing entity is God.
The objection here is the claim that premise (1) (Everything which begins to exist requires a cause) is circular reasoning, since the set of all things that exist eternally (according to the theist) consists only of God. In other words, since God is the only eternally existing entity, the premise might as well state:
Everything except God requires a cause.
The atheist then complains that this is nothing but circular reasoning or special pleading. However, it is not the theist’s contention that God is the only potential eternally existing entity. For instance, it is possible that there exists more than one god (obviously, this is just a theoretical possibility, not potential Christian doctrine). Or, it is possible that there are physical objects that have existed forever outside of the universe (for example, it is possible that God has a book, and that book has existed alongside Him forever). Therefore, since it is at least possible that something other than God has existed eternally, it is not circular reasoning to claim that everything which begins to exist requires a cause. (Note: To this point, many atheists respond that, if it is possible that objects have existed alongside God for eternity, then why cannot the universe be eternal as well? Of course, I have thoroughly critiqued the notion that the universe has existed eternally above, and so in order to maintain this objection the atheist will have to refute all of the evidence that the universe had a beginning.)
However, the atheist may argue further and say, “If you admit that other things could have existed for all eternity, then why should I believe in your god? What if there are multiple gods, or what if the first cause was an inanimate object that created the universe?” Well, it must first be mentioned that it is impossible for an eternally existing inanimate object to cause the creation of something unique, as I have argued previously. However, the question remains, “How do I know that only one God exists?” Rather ironically, this makes no difference for the atheist, because whether there is one God or one thousand, atheism is still refuted. However, there is no way that it can be “proved” that only one God is responsible for the existence of the universe. The purpose of this essay is to attempt to prove the “minimalist” definition of God. I never claimed that I could absolutely prove that the Christian God exists with reference to the Cosmological Argument. So, even if the argument leaves open the possibility of multiple gods, it is still successful. Thirdly, it could be argued on the basis of Ockham’s Razor 11 that we should consider it more likely that one God is responsible for the creation of the universe rather than many gods. So, we are still compelled to believe in the existence of one God on the basis of the Cosmological Argument.
In conclusion, the atheistic objection here is ineffective because the theist admits the possibility of other eternally existing entities.
H. The Cosmological Argument is merely God-of-the-Gaps.
It is often objected that God is not an appropriate answer to the question of the existence of the universe. This argument is, of course, just an extension of the usual “God-of-the-gaps” claim, which I have addressed more thoroughly HERE. However, for the purposes of this article, I will examine this claim more closely in the context of the Cosmological Argument. In the link just provided I argue that in order to effectively claim that “God-of-the-gaps” is being used, reasonable evidence should be put forth that naturalistic explanations are likely to exist and/or be discovered in the future. Therefore, I will attempt to show that there is little hope that atheistic explanations will be forthcoming.
a.) Is there any reason to believe that, in the future, we will discover that the universe is indeed eternal and has existed forever?
One must look at the trend of data in order to consider this. Theories of eternal universes used to be standard, but have been waning in recent years. Almost all of the discoveries that have refuted eternal universe models have been uncovered fairly recently. Scientists seem to have all but abandoned hope for the oscillating model, steady-state model, etc. In addition to this, theists have recently provided detailed arguments that attempt to show that an actual infinite number of events cannot exist. If it is true that an infinite number of events cannot exist, then it is absolutely impossible for an eternally existing universe to be a reality. Therefore, it seems that the trend of data, both scientific and philosophical, is consistently refuting the notion that an eternal universe is possible. I think it is fair to claim that it is very unlikely that the idea of an eternally existing universe will become plausible again in the future.
b.) Is there any reason to believe that, in the future, we will discover that it is indeed possible for the universe to come into existence uncaused out of absolutely nothing?
Admittedly, it is true that many scientists and philosophers are beginning to consider this idea. Is their interest in this possibility justified? Previously I have shown that their recent efforts to demonstrate that this sort of event is possible have been ineffective. Is there any reason to suppose that they will be more successful in the future? I don’t think so. Our vast experience with causal relationships gives us little reason to doubt that everything which begins to exist requires a cause. Additionally, this principle seems to be a very simple, logical truth. Absolute nothing has no power to create anything. If “nothing” creates something, is it really “nothing” at all? In sum, even though many scientists are now beginning to believe that it is possible that something can come from nothing for no reason, there is no good reason to suppose that they are right nor that future studies will vindicate them.
c.) Is there any reason to believe that, in the future, we will discover evidence that there are “alternative universes” or “Super-cosmos” or something of that nature?
Admittedly, this is the hardest objection to prove either way. Ultimately, the existence of such “alternate universes” does not seem to be testable. Basically, these “alternate universes” are a proposed substitute for God. These theories seek to understand why and how the universe was created, and they are therefore, in essence, a proposed substitute for God. However, as I have shown, these theories are hopelessly contradictory and illogical. Additionally, these theories are not generally supplemented with actual evidence; thus they are usually merely ad hoc suggestions. In any case, I see no trend in the development of newer, better theories, nor the production of evidence for the older ones. Additionally, there are many philosophical issues that need to be dealt with, including the problem of infinity, for these theories to be accepted as even possible. Therefore, I don’t think it is very likely that new evidence will be forthcoming in this area.
d.) Is there any reason to believe that, in the future, scientists will discover a naturalistic First Cause?
As I have argued previously, the idea of a naturalistic First Cause seems to violate logical principles. It is impossible for an eternally existing entity to suddenly create something unique. I see no way around this contradiction, and so thus it seems impossible that science will be able to discover a naturalistic First Cause in the future.
I again refer the reader to the article linked previously for a closer examination of this objection. However, it seems to me that there is little reason to suppose that atheistic solutions to the existence of the universe will be forthcoming. With that in mind, the “God-of-the-gaps” objection is merely an attempt to sidestep the issue.
I. The mere existence of atheistic objections demonstrates that God is not necessary.
When one looks at the tremendous amount of atheistic objections considered in this article, it is quite mind-boggling. Atheists have attacked the Cosmological Argument from every side in every way possible. This, I think, is a great testimony to its success, not to its supposed failure. However, many atheists would have us believe that, merely because objections have been tossed in the air, the Cosmological Argument fails to establish the existence of God.
1.) It is claimed that any naturalistic scenario is superior to the God hypothesis. Therefore, even if a remote possibility exists that any of the various alternatives offered by the atheist is true, it is more rational to believe in the naturalistic hypothesis than the supernatural hypothesis. A few counters can be made to this claim.
I have dealt with just about every alternative offered by atheists for the reason the universe exists. In most cases, the problem with the atheistic hypothesis is not merely lack of evidentiary support, but outright logical contradictions. Since it is impossible for a logical contradiction to be true, these atheistic alternatives are not even viable options, let alone superior to the God hypothesis.
2.) Most of these “naturalistic” alternatives are not really very naturalistic at all. As is the case with the “alternate universes” or the “universe-as-a-whole” scheme prompted by the quantum vacuum fluctuation hypothesis, these scenarios involve aspects of reality that are not only unknown, but also unknowable. Since we are confined to our own universe, there is no way that we could even begin to analyze or test “alternate universes” or whatnot. As such, these “naturalistic” scenarios are no more natural than the God hypothesis.
3.) These atheistic theories all boldly fly in the face of empirical evidence. As is particularly obvious in the eternal universe objection, scientific findings have completely undermined these theories while at the same time supporting the God hypothesis.
4.) What about the claim that anything is more likely than the God hypothesis? Should any atheistic theory, no matter how badly undermined by scientific findings, be considered more rational than the existence of God? This is not necessarily so. When an atheist claims this, he is basically raising the white flag and admitting defeat, even though he may foolishly announce his victory. If the evidence for God is so persuasive that one must embrace theories which apparently involve logical contradictions, and also have a myriad of scientific findings flying in their face in order to hold to atheism, then, I say, the existence of God is firmly established. One thing atheists are fond of claiming is that atheism is the result of an unbiased and rational search for truth. But when the atheist starts grasping on to theories which are irrational purely for the reason of avoiding the obvious conclusion that God exists, then they undermine their entire worldview. If atheism cannot be defended with rationally defensible concepts, then it utterly fails, and theism remains as the only rationally acceptable worldview.
It is seen that, just like the “God-of-the-gaps” charge, this objection is nothing but an intellectual white flag. To hold on to this irrational objection is to destroy the entire atheistic worldview that the non-theist wishes to support.
Conclusion: What to Make of it All:
In this article I have defended all three premises of the Cosmological Argument. Additionally, I have dealt with just about all objections that have been thrown against this argument. The vast amount of objections that have been thrown at this argument from every side, in my mind, highlight the Cosmological Argument’s success.
The question starts off quite simply, “Why is there something instead of nothing”? In the end, the answer may not be an inventive new cosmology, or a breakthrough concept of the fundamental nature of reality. It may be that the ultimate answer has been postulated since the dawn of mankind- that God created the universe. This may be a disturbing conclusion to many, and its implications are certainly far-reaching.
In the end, it is up to the reader to decide whether or not the arguments presented here and elsewhere in dealing with the Cosmological Argument are valid or invalid. Whether they are reasonable or unreasonable. Surely though, the thing which would be most invalid, the most unreasonable, would be to fail to consider the evidence fairly. The question over whether or not God exists is of paramount importance.
Appendix 1: The Oscillating Universe Model
The oscillating universe model is perhaps the only seriously considered cosmological model which purports to allow an eternally existing universe. This model closely follows “Big-Bang” cosmology, with one major exception. Instead of the “Big-Bang” being the point in which all space and matter, and even time itself, comes into existence, the oscillating model postulates an infinite number of “Big-Bangs” occurring in the infinite past. After a “Big-Bang”, the universe begins to expand (such as our universe does currently). However, this expansion does not occur forever. Rather a point is reached in which expansion no longer occurs, and the universe begins to contract. This is referred to as a “Big-Crunch”. After the “Big-Crunch”, another “Big-Bang” occurs, and this process repeats ad infinitum.
Appendix 2: Quantum Fluctuation Cosmology
The quantum fluctuation cosmology theorizes an infinitely large “universe-as-a-whole”, from which multiple mini-universes appear as a result of fluctuations. In this “universe-as-a-whole”, virtual particle pairs constantly fluctuate with energy. This can supposedly lead to the naturalistic creation of our material universe.
1. Beatrice Tinsley, personal letter. Cited from Craig, William Lane at http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html
2. Alan Sandage and G.A. Tammann, “Steps Toward the Hubble Constant. VII,” Astrophysical Journal 210 (1976): 23, 7.
3. Duane Dicus, et.al. “Effects of Proton Decay on the Cosmological Future.” Astrophysical Journal 252 (1982): l, 8.
4. I.D. Novikov and Ya. B. Zeldovich, “Physical Processes Near Cosmological Singularities,” Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 11 (1973): 401-2.
5. See illustration below for the thermodynamic implication:
6. Schramm, D.N. and Steigman, G., 1981. Relic Neutrinos and the Density of the Universe. Astrophysical Journal 243:1-7.
7. William Lane Craig, http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html
9. See George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God p. 241
10. See http://www.ldolphin.org/zpe.html for a short overview of the Quantum Fluctuation Theory. This article discusses things such as Zero-point energy and other essential concepts to know where quantum theorizers are coming from.
11. Occam’s Razor is the concept that, if two ideas are presented, the idea that is least complex should be preferred.
12. Craig, William Lane, Cosmos and Creator, Origins and Design 17:2. This article can be accessed at http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od172/cosmos172.htm
13. Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983), pg. 31.
14. Kanitscheider, B. 1990 “Does Physical Cosmology Transcend the Limits of Naturalistic Reasoning?” In Studies on Mario Bunge’s “Treatise”,15 ed. P. Weingartner and G.J.W. Dorn, p. 346-47. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
15. For example, it is claimed that “The properties of the Universe come from `nothing’ where nothing is the quantum vacuum, which is a very different kind of nothing.” This was quoted from http://blueox.uoregon.edu/~karen/astro123/lectures/lec15.html
16. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 134.
17. Herbert Dingle, Science at the Crossroads (London: Martin, Brian and O’Keefe, 1972) pp. 31-32.
18. Craig, William Lane, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway books, 1994) p. 112.
More on the Cosmological Argument
To see a catalog of responses to objections in the literature, see my series Here.
Recommended Further Reading
1. William Lane Craig, Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe, found at http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html
2. Shandon L. Guthrie, Theism and Contemporary Cosmology, found at http://www.sguthrie.net/theism_and_contemporary_cosmology.htm
3. Reasonable Faith, Chapter 3, The Existence of God (pages 92-122) See REVIEW.
4. Scaling the Secular City, Chapter 1, The Cosmological Argument. See REVIEW.