Twenty Arguments for God – One – The Argument from Change

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 1:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#1

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

1. The Argument from Change

The material world we know is a world of change. This young woman came to be 5’2″, but she was not always that height. The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. Now when something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being. For until it comes to be, it does not exist, and if it does not yet exist, it cannot cause anything.
As for the thing that changes, although it can be what it will become, it is not yet what it will become. It actually exists right now in this state (an acorn); it will actually exist in that state (large oak tree). But it is not actually in that state now. It only has the potentiality for that state.
Now a question: To explain the change, can we consider the changing thing alone, or must other things also be involved? Obviously, other things must be involved. Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then. The result of change cannot actually exist before the change. The changing thing begins with only the potential to change, but it needs to be acted on by other things outside if that potential is to be made actual. Otherwise it cannot change.
Nothing changes itself. Apparently self-moving things, like animal bodies, are moved by desire or will—something other than mere molecules. And when the animal or human dies, the molecules remain, but the body no longer moves because the desire or will is no longer present to move it.
Now a further question: Are the other things outside the changing thing also changing? Are its movers also moving? If so, all of them stand in need right now of being acted on by other things, or else they cannot change. No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.
The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God.”
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

Apparently the author has never observed a cell under a microscope, or bothered to understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The universe that we are within is under constant change and there is no evidence of external activity interfering with it. As it currently stands, we are unable to detect anything that is outside of this universe. The premise of this argument, that everything needs something external to it in order for it to change, is extrapolated to such an extreme that it makes a fatal assumption. I imagine that the author assumes that we’ll never ‘see’ outside the universe and therefore can’t directly challenge the argument.

If an argument is framed in such a way that it can’t be challenged, does that make it automatically correct?

Physicists are working on the problem of what could be beyond the boundary of the universe, if indeed there is such a thing. There are hypothesis that are in the works and experiments are being devised. For a stack load, and I do mean a stack load, of further reading on the subject, this Wikipedia page has a bunch of references that can be followed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe). Yes, I know there are many who detest Wikipedia for various reasons, it is however a good way to find a list of references to science stuff. So if reading the Wikipedia article makes you want to retch, skip to the bottom and browse through the references. It’s a very good a place to start.

This argument also makes reference to an animal’s will as the external source of it’s desire to move. The will is what we call the decision to move, which is based on the chemical and biological interactions in the brain. The brain, being part of the animal in question, is entirely within the animal and contains nothing that is outside of the animal. The whole idea that our will to move is external to ourselves is an utter nonsense point and factually incorrect.

As will become clear as I chug my way through these arguments, I put a lot of store in what can be explained and demonstrated, which normally means something scientific. The argument quoted above explains nothing and demonstrates even less. It is founded on a crude and minimally descriptive premise and flops downhill from there. There are not even any references to support the points made.

The agent of change that the argument says must exist outside the universe is not explicitly identified in the argument, but we all know that a Christian wrote the item and the only external being that the author is going to accept is the Christian god. The fact that other religions can, and probably do, use a similar argument to this to lead to their own god or gods should be an indication of weakness of this one.

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28 thoughts on “Twenty Arguments for God – One – The Argument from Change

  1. Where to start?
    How does this entity out of time and space interact with the universe?
    If all things need an agent for change, why the special pleading for his chosen deity?
    Have they read Aquinas’ proofs?

    • That question isn’t relevant. It’s not a rebuttal it’s a red herring. Like responding to the problem of qualia for fallacious materialism by saying: yeah but the mind body problem…yeah.

      Why bring up Aquinas’ proofs if you don’t understand this one?

      • Aquinas proofs which you seem to be unaware of are based on the same premise that there is a prime mover. If you can’t see the relationship then you are wasting my time.

        What red herring? Or did you just hear the word for the first time and have been looking for a place to use it?

  2. I love the question ‘How does this entity out of time and space interact with the universe?’ It creates a wonderful paradox, this entity apparently can’t be detected, but if it interacts with the universe those interactions should be detectable, yet they aren’t, so the entity can’t be known to exist, yet it must exist because the universe exists. Errr.

    • And not just that, the fellow writes

      Nothing changes itself. Apparently self-moving things, like animal bodies, are moved by desire or will—something other than mere molecules.

      This entity s/he has in mind must have been acted upon by something.

      • Aye. It is a very strange assertion to make, and the infinite regress dilemma of which external entity acted upon the acting entity seems lost on the author. Their desired entity is the special case, and we should accept that because to challenge it is not allowed.

        • You can challenge it, you just can’t challenge it with naive scientism. As I pointed out in the other reply you really don’t want to refer to infinite regresses. That’s one of many things that makes materialist explanations impossible. Kreeft’s argument is that the cause of change outside the universe is what we call god, not a specific god. That line simply isn’t relevant. Honestly it’s like you watched the Harris and Craig debate and decided that Harris’ abandonment of the debate topic would become your life’s creedo. Very irresponsible and anti intellectual:

          Remember materialism has nothing to do with science. That is a metaphysical claim, which means you’re dealing with philosophy. This is why scientism is beyond idiotic! It’s like ya’ll never dealt with the insanity of logical positivism…blech

      • That’s actually granting the premise of the argument, so then the argument succeeds.

        You both think that the premise can only be an immaterial external cause but it simply doesn’t have to be. If that is what Kreeft is arguing then he needs to defend immaterial substances first (something that is relatively easy to do). But I don’t think that’s what he’s doing….I could be wrong, this argument is very unpersuasive to me so I haven’t spent much time dealing with it. The reason immaterial causes (like will, soul etc) are a fundamental part of the argument is not because they are needed for the premise but rather they are needed to stop an infinite regress. This is the point. An infinite regress with material things is either A) not actually infinite and therefore not actually materialistic or B) actually infinite and therefore impossible to be instantiated. Either way it doesn’t go well for the materialist.

        • The will and the soul are not real things, they are illusions that we have given a name to. Take away the brain and there is nothing to ascribe to will or soul. The point is that the decision and the motive for an animal to change is entirely internal and not external.

    • That’s not a paradox at all especially since you just question begged your naive scientism all over again. You don’t think it’s a paradox, you think it’s non scientism and that’s right it is non scientism.

  3. “Apparently the author has never observed a cell under a microscope, or bothered to understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics”

    Not relevant you have not understood the argument. I doubt you understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics either since it isn’t relevant to this argument.

    • “The universe that we are within is under constant change and there is no evidence of external activity interfering with it.”

      He isn’t making an evidential argument. It’s a logical argument. You have to refute either the premises or the form. Claiming there is “no evidence of external activity interfering with it” is not relevant to the argument.

  4. The premise of this argument, that everything needs something external to it in order for it to change, is extrapolated to such an extreme that it makes a fatal assumption.”

    To be honest I find this argument (and Kreeft in general) to be unpersuasive and I almost didn’t bother reading your post but I figured (rightly) that you wouldn’t be able to comprehend the argument in question, and you haven’t. The argument is meant to be some kind of proof (a proof is different from “evidence” because it is meant to demonstrate or make likely a truth claim) from causation, something that scientists (and by extension their scientismist disciples) generally don’t think about because thinkers like Hume essentially said causation is not analyzable. Scientism generally eliminates anything as a subject of study that is metaphysical or logical. But what you have actually done here is grant his entire argument.

    You granted that the basic premise is correct but then claim that his conclusion (which you incorrectly identify as his assumption) is “extrapolated to such an extreme” but this isn’t what he did at all. If you grant the premise that something external to a thing is what causes change in that thing then his argument follows. You need to learn about logic. You simply do not know enough to “pick apart” anybody’s arguments. You need to show some humility and start listening instead of attacking.

  5. “I imagine that the author assumes that we’ll never ‘see’ outside the universe and therefore can’t directly challenge the argument.”

    This isn’t relevant. You’re assuming scientism as a metaphysical epistemology (which makes no sense for lots of reasons), but you’ve basically granted him the argument already. Kreeft is not concerned with “see” ing outside the universe because its a metaphysical and logical argument not an “empirical” one. If you could “see outside the universe” then his argument would still apply to whatever you “saw.” You have to take issue with the premise or the form. You can’t simply say I believe scientism is true therefore any conclusion outside of scientism is false. I can’t remember if I told you or another scientismist this but you’re essentially still a YEC. Intellectually and functionally your worldview hasn’t changed. You need to learn about philosophy and how actual intellectual activity is done. You’re just as anti intellectual and ignorant now as you were when you were a YEC. For all intensive purposes what YECs and Scientismists do is identical. One takes a naive biblical epistemology and the other a naive “science” epistemology. You still haven’t learned how to think rather you found a new authority to tell you what to think.

  6. “If an argument is framed in such a way that it can’t be challenged, does that make it automatically correct?”

    It can be challenged but not with scientism. That’s the point. You don’t understand the argument.

  7. “Physicists are working on the problem of what could be beyond the boundary of the universe, if indeed there is such a thing. There are hypothesis that are in the works and experiments are being devised. For a stack load, and I do mean a stack load, of further reading on the subject, this Wikipedia page has a bunch of references that can be followed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe).”

    Not relevant. His argument will still apply. This is one of many reasons that Craig destroyed Sean Carroll. Scientism cannot debate philosophy, it is a fundamentalist fallacy.

    • “Yes, I know there are many who detest Wikipedia for various reasons, it is however a good way to find a list of references to science stuff. So if reading the Wikipedia article makes you want to retch, skip to the bottom and browse through the references. It’s a very good a place to start.”

      That is true and easily the best way to use Wikipedia. But the sources you are pointing people to aren’t relevant.

    • When philosophy claims that there is something outside the universe, it needs to be able to demonstrate that. It should never be assumed to be true. This is why philosophy is not a reliable method of determining anything about reality and why when philosophy and science meet, science always wins.

  8. “This argument also makes reference to an animal’s will as the external source of it’s desire to move. The will is what we call the decision to move, which is based on the chemical and biological interactions in the brain. The brain, being part of the animal in question, is entirely within the animal and contains nothing that is outside of the animal. The whole idea that our will to move is external to ourselves is an utter nonsense point and factually incorrect.”

    What you actually mean is that there is no such thing as will. That’s not relevant, but it’s consistent with your misunderstanding and question begging of scientism. You are actually arguing for Kreeft’s initial premise here because you think it is about “spooky” stuff like the soul. That is involved for him, and based on other interactions with you it is clear you know less than 0 about philosophy of mind (less than because you actually believe illogical falsehoods), but nothing hangs on immaterial substances. All he needs is externality. Which you have granted. You think you have not because you claim that the animal cannot be external to itself. Fine. But then you detail your fallacious material conception of “will” and grant his premise again. The externality is not physical. It is the idea that each cause is outside of the thing acted upon. Which you have granted again. Chemical, biological reactions within the brain which are the result of something else, on and on. You have not understood the argument and granted Kreeft his entire case.

  9. “As will become clear as I chug my way through these arguments, I put a lot of store in what can be explained and demonstrated, which normally means something scientific. The argument quoted above explains nothing and demonstrates even less. It is founded on a crude and minimally descriptive premise and flops downhill from there. There are not even any references to support the points made.”

    This is completely incoherent. You only believe in “science” and I have yet to see you deal with logic or philosophy anywhere. Your worldview is clear, this series is unnecessary to demonstrate that. What references? It’s an argument…you really need to become more humble and give up your scientism because these are inane ramblings.

  10. “The agent of change that the argument says must exist outside the universe is not explicitly identified in the argument, but we all know that a Christian wrote the item and the only external being that the author is going to accept is the Christian god. The fact that other religions can, and probably do, use a similar argument to this to lead to their own god or gods should be an indication of weakness of this one.”

    This is just more irrelevance. The only thing the argument would support is something like rationalistic Theism or deism which could be compatible with almost every religion. It’s very very clear what the “agent of change” is in the argument, but it isn’t relevant to scientism so you beg the question that it can’t be identified. Religion isn’t relevant to this argument. Your comprehension and reasoning abilities are inadequate. You need to learn a lot more before you will be able to deal with these issues responsibly. I know you think my saying that makes me an “arrogant prick” but you are actually the arrogant one because you display no intellectual humility or competence. These issues are above you for now, but if you open your mind and learn some patience and mental discipline you can grasp them some day.

    I didn’t bother responding to your Namaan post because anyone who advocates for infanticide has no grounds to make a moral judgement, and as usual you failed to understand the passage in question. Open your mind and close your mouth (your WordPress mouth), it is possible to change.

    • Also I’m sorry that I haven’t responded to any comments you or anyone else has made…it’s been a while since I’ve even moderated my comments. I’m contributing to a group blog now and life became busier in general. Also to be fair most of your responses are inadequate and don’t require a response at all. But that’s more polite than my simply failing to respond at all. There’s no excuse for that, and I’m sorry. I probably won’t have time to deal with any of your two or three word non rebuttal rebuttals here either…sorry, it just takes too much time. But I thought this post was awful enough that it needed to be corrected. I pray that one day you will listen to me.

  11. This argument is complete, correct and effective.

    It had nothing to do with alternative universes.

    It simply states the conclusions of what later could be observed in Newton’s Laws of motion:

    Motion doesn’t happen all by itself.

    Similarly, change does not happen all by itself.

    This is obvious thinking person (which does not include atheists).

    That the atheist is mystified by these simple proofs, proves that atheists do not have the power to think rationally.

    • Arguments are not proofs, they are not even evidence, and they certainly don’t mystify atheists. Nice to know that insulting the intelligence of those who don’t agree with you is a common theist trait though.

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