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Old 04-14-2009, 10:45 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Cosmological Argument for God

Recently I debated a Christian that employed the following argument. It seems to be quite popular these days (Dr. William Lane Craig used a similar one against Christopher Hitchens recently):

1. Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (from 1,3)
5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (from 2,4)


What are your thoughts? Obviously I completely disagree with it, but I'll post later.
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:52 AM   #2 (permalink)
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It's a skewed reasoning since it leads to infinite regress when you ask for an explanation of God's existence, I don't see any problem with side-stepping God and saying the Universe perpetuates itself, but I feel like there must be some trans-material "will" that keeps this perpetuation going, even if it is nothing more than a tension inherent in the universe. Tension in that sense is a quasi-spiritual entity that for me carries implications about God.

In this proof, I don't feel comfortable assuming points 1 or 2.
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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How do we know number 2? That seems to be a big crux in the argument. How can one assume that the explanation for the universe is God?
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:54 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cardboard adolescent View Post
It's a skewed reasoning since it leads to infinite regress when you ask for an explanation of God's existence, I don't see any problem with side-stepping God and saying the Universe perpetuates itself, but I feel like there must be some trans-material "will" that keeps this perpetuation going, even if it is nothing more than a tension inherent in the universe. Tension in that sense is a quasi-spiritual entity that for me carries implications about God.
Obviously I agree with this, but essentially the theist's response would be that a god (unlike the universe) is necessary by its own nature and does not require an explanation. He relies on the idea that the Universe must be contingent and therefore needs an explanation, and God (being necessary) solves the infinite regress.
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:57 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Which invalidates point 1, unless God doesn't exist.
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:00 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Which invalidates point 1, unless God doesn't exist.
I see what you mean, but essentially the explanation for his existence would be that he is necessary. I'm merely replying to you with the answers I already got from him, since I followed the same line of thinking as you.
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:04 AM   #7 (permalink)
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well if you say that everything contingent requires an explanation, and God is the only necessary entity, then you've set it up so that every explanation eventually leads back to God, and you really don't know anything about God except that "it explains everything!" it might be a sound system, but it doesn't tell you anything. then you can use the bible and start giving God some of the contingent qualities it gives to get a sense of him, but that pretty much amounts to "explaining God" in terms of lower, contingent truths. seems like one would get stuck on this sort of logic.
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:08 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Essentially my problem is this: his argument relies on the contingency of the Universe. It basically says that because he can conceive of the universe's non-existence, it must be contingent. But the flaw here is that one can only conceive of the non-existence of the universe if you presuppose that it is contingent, thereby assuming that which you are trying to prove.

Furthermore, his statement that "anything that exists has an explanation of its existence" is based on the observation of matter within the universe taking different forms (that obviously appear to be contingent, such as a house or a person). He used himself as an example, saying that without an explanation (his parents meeting), he could have not existed. Unfortunately, all that has come into existence is a particular form the matter that makes up his body has taken - matter is neither created nor destroyed (for the purpose of this argument, the exceptions to this rule make no difference), so he cannot logically say that matter itself needs an explanation or is contingent. If he cannot prove that matter's existence is contingent, with the Universe being essentially all that physically exists, I don't think he's postulated a particularly strong case.

Another similar argument he used was being able to conceive of a different Universe, which makes the same error. He cannot conceive of a different Universe (i.e., one with different "laws") because doing so also assumes that which he is trying to prove - that the Universe is contingent. The laws of the Universe might actually be necessary - he has certainly not proven otherwise.
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:32 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I think it would be better for the sake of his argument, an anyone elses, to substitute "explanation" for "causation".
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:39 AM   #10 (permalink)
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just because you can show one event 'caused' another, that is, that when one event occurs the other usually happens after it, doesn't mean you've explained either event, or the connection, does it? or does it? hmm

i'm not sure what to think of the words 'necessary' and 'contingent' anymore either, they're very slippery. given what we know about indeterminacy it seems strange to say that the current state of the universe is 'necessary,' rather it seems more and more contingent on chance as you pile up all the different moments from the big bang or whatever. but from our perspective it is rather difficult to make out levels of contingency, everything simply is what it is, how do we know it could have been different? well perhaps through logic and science we can detach from the world as it is into the world as it could be, given different values for more and more fundamental entities and then perhaps different laws altogether, and in such a way work out the 'necessary' truths for building systems in the first place and then hierarchically defining levels of contingency on these axioms... but that assumes that the universe is basically a system that can be modeled. according to quantum mechanics it is, but the model would have to be as complex as the system (which isn't really a model anymore). so, those two words carry a wide range of perspectives, you can approach them in the spirit of 'pure logic', in terms of physics, pragmatically... all the meanings compete and it's hard to get a grip on what you're talking about.

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