I did a brief survey of why I think on the basis of the current scientific evidence the universe is finite, and cannot be eternal- which of course now begs the question then: from whence came the universe? As a child growing up, unknown to me in a sophisticated manner, I mainly believed there must be a God because I thought something or someone must have been there all along to get the whole show going. It seems I was in good company. Aristotle advanced it as the first mover argument; Thomas Aquinas brought it to prominence in his 5 ways – his thesis on why God exists. Having read up a bit on western philosophy it is one of the classic “proofs” offered in support of the existence of God. Currently it is popularly known as the Kalaam Cosmological Argument.

It is important to note that Kalaam Cosmological argument is a logically deductive philosophical argument that uses scientific evidence to support its premises. A deductive argument is a valid argument which means it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false. We use arguments every day, we reason, we weigh, we think about the consequences and implications and from there decide – our practical day to day life relies on us making arguments.
The Kalaam Cosmological argument is no different – it relies on our reason, rational insight and observations about how the universe is.

 

The Kalaam Cosmological argument states:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore the universe has a cause

 

The argument is deductively valid, if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true. So the crucial question becomes are the premises true? Are they more plausible than their denial?

 

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause

This seems to me to be an obvious statement, or atleast more plausible than its negation. Everything that begins, or comes into being, must have a cause for that. The alternative positions that one can hold present logical difficulties if one denies that everything that begins to exist has a cause. The two alternatives are: some things can come into being from nothing; and somethings can cause themselves to begin to exist.

 

From nothing comes nothing. The existence of nothing is a logical impossibility to begin with. If nothing existed it would actually be something. Secondly, nothing does not have any physical or non-physical properties let alone potential to bring into existence a universe or anything else for that matter. Thirdly we just don’t observe things coming into being without a cause. The whole scientific enterprise prides itself for finding causes for the effects we see. We simply don’t observe phenomena and say there is no cause for it.

 

I watched a debate between Sean Carrol and William Lane Craig called God and Cosmology. Carrol’s main objection was that it is logically absurd to say the universe has an external cause. I was disappointed because this is a classic case of begging the question. There is nothing logical inconsistent with saying the universe has an external cause unless one already assumes that the universe is all that there is. Which of course begs the questions because that’s what they were trying to debate –whether the universe has an external cause or not.

 

North of the north pole

A similar objection which states that it is absurd to ask what caused or what was prior the big bang because it would be like asking what is north of the north pole. The analogy is that since there was no time before the singularity there was nothing before it, similar to the north pole there is no physical location more north than the north pole. What the analogy does capture is that there was no space-time, nothing physical or temporal, prior the big bang – which is true. Because there is nothing north of north  pole it does not necessarily mean there is nothing causally prior to the north – in other words we know that the North pole was caused by something. Similarly the cause of the universe is not temporally prior but causally prior.

 

To illustrate my point- let us look at surface tension of water. It is caused by intermolecular attractive forces (hydrogen bonds) between a hydrogen atom and the oxygen atom in adjacent molecules. The molecules at the surface of the liquid experience a net inward attraction because there are no molecules above the surface and this causes surface tension. We wouldn’t say that the intermolecular forces exist temporally before surface tension, because it would be impossible for intermolecular forces to exist and for surface tension to emerge at a later time. What we say is that intermolecular forces are causally prior to surface tension. Similarly, there was no prior time before the singularity however there must be something causally prior

 

Can something cause itself to begin to exist?

Perhaps somethings can cause themselves to begin to existence – the ultimate bootstrapping trick. Another logical absurdity because in order for something to bring itself into existence it would already exist and therefore there would be no need for it to bring itself into existence!

And so the most plausible position is that everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

  1. The universe began to exist

I wrote a brief survey looking at various cosmological models. The standard big bang model which posits an initial singularity – is the most robust and scientifically supported model we have. The singularity is the absolute beginning of space-time itself, not just a change in form. Thirdly the existence of an actual infinity of sequences and temporal events is impossible, if the universe did not begin to exist but is eternal in the past then an infinite number of events would have had to pass prior to this point which is impossible. To say the universe began to exist is not an argument from ignorance but is based on current scientific evidence.

 

  1. Therefore the universe has a cause

It logically follows then that the universe has a cause. From the nature of the case we can form a philosophical and conceptual analysis of what properties the cause of the universe would possess, we don’t immediately assume God.

By the nature of the case, the cause of the finite universe (space-time and all its material contents) cannot itself be material, temporal or finite. In other words the cause of the universe must be eternal, immaterial and infinite. If the cause is temporal, finite or material then we run into an infinite regression of causes. Whatever the cause is; it must be infinite, eternal, immaterial and uncaused. Moreover the cause must be all powerful to be able to bring about the universe into existence.

 

Types of causes – Impersonal or personal cause?

 

There are two types of causes which we are familiar with in our everyday experience- event type causes and agency causation. Event type causation is where the effect is described in terms of laws and initial conditions which necessarily bring about the effect. It is the type of causes that science discovers. Similar to the illustration of intermolecular forces causing surface tension; the effect of surface tension must necessarily exist if you have intermolecular forces.

Then you have agency causation, were the cause is a personal agent who freely chooses to bring about an effect. For example, what is the cause of this article? An agent has freely chosen to bring about this article.

 

There were no scientific laws and initial physical conditions prior to the universe coming into existence therefore event type causation would not apply. Moreover if the cause is an impersonal, mechanical eternal cause which has the necessary and sufficient conditions to bring about the universe, then the universe would also be eternal and not finite. Recall that for surface tension, the necessary and sufficient conditions are intermolecular forces; you cannot have intermolecular without the effect being surface tension. Similarly an impersonal, mechanical eternal cause would eternally have the conditions to bring about the effect, therefore the universe would also be eternal – but it is not, so the cause cannot be impersonal.

 

Thus we are left with agent causation which explains how a finite universe can come into being from an infinite cause – the personal agent freely chose at some finite time ago to bring about the universe into existence. The cause of the universe is a timeless, eternal, immaterial, all powerful, person, or simply known as God.

 

It is important to note that the implication is that: pantheism, or new age spiritualism which claims God is the universe, or a cosmic force, or a consciousness that animates and is identical to the universe is false. If God is the cause of the universe then he must exist outside of the universe and cannot be identical to it. As physicist Hugh Ross states in his book The Creator and the Cosmos,

 

By definition, time is that dimension in which cause and effect phenomena take place. If time’s beginning is concurrent with the beginning of the universe, as the space-time theorem says, then the cause of the universe must be some entity operating in a time dimension completely independent of and pre-existent to the time dimension of the cosmos. This conclusion is powerfully important to our understanding of who God is and who or what God is not. It tells us that the creator is transcendent, operating beyond the dimensional limits of the universe. It tells us that God is not the universe itself, nor is God contained within the universe.

As the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans said,

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

 

 

 

 

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