The Last Argument Standing

I have looked at most of the arguments for the existence of god and I find most of them weak, sometimes even laughable.  The biggest problem with most of them is that, at most even a successful argument allows for the existence of a deistic type god, but getting from there to something like a Christian is actually quite a long haul.  For example, the Kalam argument by William Lane Craig is thought to be fairly robust, but falls well short of proving that the creator of the universe is in fact the god of the bible.  Or that such a creator even knows we are here.  Craig uses the term “personal creator” but I think this is more of a linguistic trick than a valid premise.  The creator may have to be “personal” in that it has some kind of free will, but that does not mean it “personally” created everything in the universe, like you and me.

I can easily concede that the universe has a superhuman or even supernatural creator, but it does not follow in the least that such a being has the attributes that we give to “god.”  The creator does not necessarily have to have all the omni characteristics to create the universe.  It does not have to care about us.  The universe could be a giant experiment of some kind that we are accidental artifacts of.

Unfortunately for theists, pretty much the only argument for the existence of a “god,” while compelling (with one weakness, which I will get to) in a logical sense does not provide the kind of comfort they are generally looking for.  The question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  is the one that is problematic for atheists.  Unfortunately the answer “god” to that question provides cold comfort the the theist.

We can map how we can get from the Big Bang to today, so it is entirely possible that the “creator” simply set off the Big Bang.  Or maybe hundreds of them, or billions, who could know?  So, “created universe” does not equal “Bible true.”  Even “earth created” does not equal “Bible True.”  And unfortunately the Kalam argument contains the seed of it’s logical doom.

Sometimes the first premise of the argument is “everything must have a cause.”   This obviously leads to an infinite regress which leads nowhere.  Other times “god” is defined as “the uncaused cause,” which is obviously begging the question.  Either way, postulating a creator just raises the question, “Where did THAT come from?”  And still leaves the question,  “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  If god is the uncaused cause, why does god bother existing?

And then, along comes Ockham’s razor to take a few giant hunks out of the last argument standing.  Postulating a god to explain why anything exists simply kicks the can down the road to ask why god exists.  Which is more economical to presume, that the universe simply popped into existence due to some kind of quantum fluctuation or that some kind of pre-existing, powerful, intelligent thing got bored and popped everything into existence.  Obviously the former rather than the latter.

Now, the most economical explanation is not always the correct one, so Ockham doesn’t definitively rule out some kind of creator, but it does raise the standard of proof quite a bit.  And then there is the long, long road from “creator” to all knowing, all loving god.

There is certainly plenty of room for an explanation of the creation of the universe that involves something far beyond human understanding at this time.  But this gap in our knowledge does not presuppose anything like our usual deities that personally have some hand in creating each of us and personally cares what we do with our tallywhackers or honey pots.

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One thought on “The Last Argument Standing

  1. Agellius says:

    You write, ‘Sometimes the first premise of the argument is “everything must have a cause.” This obviously leads to an infinite regress which leads nowhere. Other times “god” is defined as “the uncaused cause,” which is obviously begging the question. Either way, postulating a creator just raises the question, “Where did THAT come from?”’

    Do you really think Thomas Aquinas didn’t think of that?

    The argument is not that “everything that exists must have a cause”. The argument is that everything in the physical universe has a cause. Obviously this can’t be proven, nevertheless it’s a basic underlying assumption of our lives, not to mention the physical and biological sciences. The raison d’etre of science is to find the causes of things: Why is this here and what makes it do what it does? Science assumes that it didn’t come from nowhere and didn’t simply decide to start doing things, and that therefore something caused it to exist and continues to make it do what it does.

    The First Cause argument simply says that this can’t go on to infinity, therefore there must be at least one thing that doesn’t have a cause. If there is no first cause, then there can’t be a second cause; if no second, then no third, and so on. If the thing we’re observing is the 2,000,000th thing in a chain of causation, then there must be a 1,999,999th, and a 1,999,998th, and so forth, down to the 1st.

    The question “what caused the first cause” is meaningless. If it’s the first cause, then it doesn’t have a cause. If it did, then whatever caused it would be the first cause.

    The very fact that this conclusion is hard for some people to accept, is evidence of the premise which underlies it: That everything we observe has a cause. It’s for this reason that we find it difficult to grasp the idea of an uncaused cause. But the fact is that there simply must be something which has no cause, otherwise nothing would exist.

    Or to put it another way, if EVERYTHING has a cause, then there is nothing left to be the cause. But if there were no cause, then there would be no effects and therefore nothing would exist. Therefore, there must be two classes of things: On the one hand, that which is caused, and on the other, that which is uncaused. But everything in the universe is caused and therefore goes in the first category. What’s left goes in the second. What exactly is in the second category? Whatever it is, it’s not anything physical or it would be part of the universe. So we’re left with an immaterial, uncaused being who caused the existence of everything in the universe.

    You write, ‘Which is more economical to presume, that the universe simply popped into existence due to some kind of quantum fluctuation or that some kind of pre-existing, powerful, intelligent thing got bored and popped everything into existence. Obviously the former rather than the latter.’

    It may be more obviously economical to say that “the universe simply popped into existence due to some kind of quantum fluctuation”. Unfortunately, it’s also nonsensical. Basically, you’re positing a physical phenomenon as the origin of all physical things. This is like the Lorax picking himself up by the seat of his pants and flying away.

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