Twenty Arguments for God – Seventeen – The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

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 17:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#17

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

17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.
You either see this one or you don’t.

What do I do with this one? Question the sincerity of the author? Roll out an ad hominem by insulting the authors intelligence?

Do I call POE? Do I ask if the whole thing is an elaborate troll?

Do I counter by saying that there is also shit and vomit, therefore there is no god?

I’m stumped, not because the sentences are compelling, but because this is not an argument. To take it seriously or to give it serious thought is insulting.

Twenty Arguments for God – Fourteen – The Moral Argument

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 14:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#14

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

14. The Moral Argument

Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one.
But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation.
Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct.
We need to be clear about what the first premise is claiming. It does not mean merely that we can find people around who claim to have certain duties. Nor does it mean that there have been many people who thought they were obliged to do certain things (like clothing the naked) and to avoid doing others (like committing adultery). The first premise is claiming something more: namely, that we human beings really are obligated; that our duties arise from the way things really are, and not simply from our desires or subjective dispositions. It is claiming, in other words, that moral values or obligations themselves—and not merely the belief in moral values—are objective facts.
Now given the fact of moral obligation, a question naturally arises. Does the picture of the world presented by atheism accord with this fact? The answer is no. Atheists never tire of telling us that we are the chance products of the motion of matter—a motion which is purposeless and blind to every human striving. We should take them at their word and ask: Given this picture, in what exactly is the moral good rooted? Moral obligation can hardly be rooted in a material motion blind to purpose.
Suppose we say it is rooted in nothing deeper than human willing and desire. In that case, we have no moral standard against which human desires can be judged. For every desire will spring from the same ultimate source—purposeless, pitiless matter. And what becomes of obligation? According to this view, if I say there is an obligation to feed the hungry, I would be stating a fact about my wants and desires and nothing else. I would be saying that I want the hungry to be fed, and that I choose to act on that desire. But this amounts to an admission that neither I nor anyone else is really obliged to feed the hungry—that, in fact, no one has any real obligations at all. Therefore the atheistic view of reality is not compatible with there being genuine moral obligation.
What view is compatible? One that sees real moral obligation as grounded in its Creator, that sees moral obligation as rooted in the fact that we have been created with a purpose and for an end. We may call this view, with deliberate generality, “the religious view.” But however general the view, reflection on the fact of moral obligation does seem to confirm it.
Question 1: The argument has not shown that ethical subjectivism is false. What if there are no objective values?
Reply: True enough. The argument assumes that there are objective values; it aims to show that believing in them is incompatible with one picture of the world, and quite compatible with another. Those two pictures are the atheistic-materialistic one, and the (broadly speaking) religious one. Granted, if ethical subjectivism is true, then the argument does not work. However, almost no one is a consistent subjectivist. (Many think they are, and say they are—until they suffer violence or injustice. In that case they invariably stand with the rest of us in recognizing that certain things ought never to be done.) And for the many who are not—and never will be—subjectivists, the argument can be most helpful. It can show them that to believe as they do in objective values is inconsistent with what they may also believe about the origin and destiny of the universe. If they move to correct the inconsistency, it will be a move toward the religious view and away from the atheistic one.
Question 2: This proof does not conclude to God but to some vague “religious” view. Isn’t this “religious” view compatible with very much more than traditional theism?
Reply: Yes indeed. It is compatible, for example, with Platonic idealism, and many other beliefs that orthodox Christians find terribly deficient. But this general religious view is incompatible with materialism, and with any view that banishes value from the ultimate objective nature of things. That is the important point. It seems most reasonable that moral conscience is the voice of God within the soul, because moral value exists only on the level of persons, minds and wills. And it is hard, if not impossible, to conceive of objective moral principles somehow floating around on their own, apart from any persons.
But we grant that there are many steps to travel from objective moral values to the Creator of the universe or the triune God of love. There is a vast intellectual distance between them. But these things are compatible in a way that materialism and belief in objective values are not. To reach a personal Creator you need other arguments (cf. arguments 1-6), and to reach the God of love you need revelation. By itself, the argument leaves many options open, and eliminates only some. But we are surely well rid of those it does eliminate.

The first line of the quoted piece reads

Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.

Isn’t it immoral to lie?

In the first four lines, this argument opens with an unsupported assertion, makes a false dichotomy, makes another unsupported assertion and then posits an unsafe conclusion. It’s a terrible way to start an argument!

The claim that it is an objective fact that we are obligated to be moral is a religious claim that can only be true if there is a god that has created us subservient to this ‘fact’. That god hasn’t been demonstrated and so the claim is suspect. To try and then use this claim as proof that that god exists is circular reasoning.

Humans behave according to their biases and their desires; this is an entirely subjective behaviour pattern. That the religious doubt it is because of their bias towards a controlling god and their desire for everyone else to fall in line. That is an entirely subjectively moral behaviour based on their peculiar biases and desires. Need further proof against objectivity? Go to any church and checklist the behaviours of the membership, do they all act in the same way in the same situations? No they don’t. Then there can’t be an objective standards ruling their behaviour, therefore their behaviour is subjectively driven.

In the reply to question 1 we see a rare bit of honesty, the argument does indeed assume objectivism and the argument does indeed fail if is false.

Therein lies the fatal flaw in this argument, from beginning to end the objective morality is assumed and used to argue for ‘religion’, yet at no point is there any reference to anything supporting objectivity. There is a half-hearted attempt at dissing subjectivity which ironically supports it.

almost no one is a consistent subjectivist.

That is the whole point of subjectivity! Consistency is neither implied nor expected, we act and behave according to our motivation at the time. By definition that means there will be inconsistency. That inconsistency is the evidential support for subjectivity. In claiming that morals are objective, the author has actually demonstrated exactly why morals are subjective. Subjective morality does not support the god hypothesis and this one on it’s own should be enough to declare the Christian god does not live, long live humanity!

Twenty Arguments for God – Thirteen – The Ontological Argument

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 13:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#13

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

13. The Ontological Argument

The ontological argument was devised by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), who wanted to produce a single, simple demonstration which would show that God is and what God is. Single it may be, but far from simple. It is, perhaps, the most controversial proof for the existence of God. Most people who first hear it are tempted to dismiss it immediately as an interesting riddle, but distinguished thinkers of every age, including our own, have risen to defend it. For this very reason it is the most intensely philosophical proof for God’s existence; its place of honor is not within popular piety, but rather textbooks and professional journals. We include it, with a minimum of discussion, not because we think it conclusive or irrefutable, but for the sake of completeness.
Anselm’s Version
It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone.
“God” means “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”
Suppose that God exists in the mind but not in reality.
Then a greater than God could be thought (namely, a being that has all the qualities our thought of God has plus real existence).
But this is impossible, for God is “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”
Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.
Question 1: Suppose I deny that God exists in the mind?
Reply: In that case the argument could not conclude that God exists in the mind and in reality. But note: the denial commits you to the view that there is no concept of God. And very few would wish to go that far.
Question 2: Is it really greater for something to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone?
Reply: The first premise of this argument is often misunderstood. People sometimes say: “Isn’t an imaginary disease better than a real one?” Well it certainly is better—and so a greater thing—for you that the disease is not real. But that strengthens Anselm’s side of the argument. Real bacteria are greater than imaginary ones, just because they have something that imaginary ones lack: real being. They have an independence, and therefore an ability to harm, that nothing can have whose existence is wholly dependent on your thought. It is this greater level of independence that makes them greater as beings. And that line of thinking does not seem elusive or farfetched.
Question 3: But is real being just another “thought” or “concept”? Is “real being” just one more concept or characteristic (like “omniscience” or “omnipotence”) that could make a difference to the kind of being God is?
Reply: Real being does make a real difference. The question is: Does it make a conceptual difference? Critics of the argument say that it does not. They say that just because real being makes all the difference it cannot be one more quality among others. Rather it is the condition of there being something there to have any qualities at all. When the proof says that God is the greatest being that can be “thought,” it means that there are various perfections or qualities that God has to a degree no creature possibly could, qualities that are supremely admirable. But to say that such a being exists is to say that there really is something which is supremely admirable. And that is not one more admirable quality among others.
Is it greater to exist in reality as well as in the mind? Of course, incomparably greater. But the difference is not a conceptual one. And yet the argument seems to treat it as if it were—as if the believer and the nonbeliever could not share the same concept of God. Clearly they do. They disagree not about the content of this concept, but about whether the kind of being it describes really exists. And that seems beyond the power of merely conceptual analysis, as used in this argument, to answer. So question 3, we think, really does invalidate this form of the ontological argument.
Modal Version
Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm developed this version of the ontological argument. Both find it implicitly contained in the third chapter of Anselm’s Proslogion.
The expression “that being than which a greater cannot be thought” (GCB, for short) expresses a consistent concept.
GCB cannot be thought of as: a. necessarily nonexistent; or as b. contingently existing but only as c. necessarily existing.
So GCB can only be thought of as the kind of being that cannot not exist, that must exist.
But what must be so is so.
Therefore, GCB (i.e., God) exists.
Question: Just because GCB must be thought of as existing, does that mean that GCB really exists?
Reply: If you must think of something as existing, you cannot think of it as not existing. But then you cannot deny that GCB exists; for then you are thinking what you say cannot be thought—namely, that GCB does not exist.
Possible Worlds Version
This variation on the modal version has been worked out in great detail by Alvin Plantinga. We have done our best to simplify it.
Definitions:
Maximal excellence: To have omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in some world.
Maximal greatness: To have maximal excellence in every possible world.
There is a possible world (W) in which there is a being (X) with maximal greatness.
But X is maximally great only if X has maximal excellence in every possible world.
Therefore X is maximally great only if X has omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in every possible world.
In W, the proposition “There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being” would be impossible—that is, necessarily false.
But what is impossible does not vary from world to world.
Therefore, the proposition, “There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being” is necessarily false in this actual world, too.
Therefore, there actually exists in this world, and must exist in every possible world, an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.

A more lengthy telling of the argument (if you want it) is here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/ and here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

In summary, because it is possible to think that there is nothing that is greater than the Christian god, the Christian god is the greatest thing ever and is therefore real. Well colour me unimpressed because I am pretty sure that I can think of a god eating monster that eats gods for fun, especially gods which are greater than those which exist only in the mind. Therefore my god eating monster just ate all the gods so there’s none left. The end.

Jesting aside, this argument is all about the limits of the human mind. The argument posits that the no human can imagine anything greater than X and because something existing is greater than something imagined, the imagined Christian god must be real. The argument makes no allowance for someone else thinking of something greater than the Christian god, there really is nothing about this argument that makes any sense.

I take issue with the phrase ‘philosophical proof’ at the start because I dispute that philosophy can prove any such thing using arguments like this. Proof would be a demonstration of that god that is unambiguous and could not be attributed to anything else. Thinking it real and claiming that that means it is real is not a proof for anything and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

Getting into the grit of the argument itself, it stumbles massively when it says that god must exist both in thought and reality because it’s not possible to think of something greater. It’s a blunt assertion with no support. It is always possible to think of something greater and it is the utmost arrogance to think that because you have imagined in your mind what you think is the greatest possible god, that that god must therefore exist. Thinking something is real doesn’t make it real.

The argument also seems to be implying that when something that exists is thought about, that something exists both in reality and in the mind! No it doesn’t. What is in the mind is simply a mental representation. Like a photocopy isn’t the real thing and it’s copy and a reflection isn’t the real thing and it’s copy.

The argument really does back flip itself into a knot of nonsense.

The argument certainly is imaginative, I’ve got to give it that, but what it imagines isn’t real and the leap from the imagined greatest ever god to that god being real is missing a great many steps and it does not follow in the slightest.

Twenty Arguments for God – Eight – The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole

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 8:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#8
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole

Norris Clarke, who taught metaphysics and philosophy of religion for many years at Fordham, has circulated privately an intriguing version of the design argument. We present it here, slightly abridged and revised; for your reflection.
Starting point. This world is given to us as a dynamic, ordered system of many active component elements. Their natures (natural properties) are ordered to interact with each other in stable, reciprocal relationships which we call physical laws. For example, every hydrogen atom in our universe is ordered to combine with every oxygen atom in the proportion of 2:1 (which implies that every oxygen atom is reciprocally ordered to combine with every hydrogen atom in the proportion of 1:2). So it is with the chemical valences of all the basic elements. So too all particles with mass are ordered to move toward every other according to the fixed proportions of the law of gravity.
In such an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system, the active nature of each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act. Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.
Argument. In any such system as the above (like our world) no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory. For any part presupposes all the other parts—the whole system already in place—to match its own relational properties. It can’t act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it. Any one part could be self-sufficient only if it were the cause of the whole rest of the system—which is impossible, since no part can act except in collaboration with the others.
Nor can the system as a whole explain its own existence, since it is made up of the component parts and is not a separate being, on its own, independent of them. So neither the parts nor the whole are self-sufficient; neither can explain the actual existence of this dynamically interactive system.
Three Conclusions
Since the parts make sense only within the whole, and neither the whole nor the parts can explain their own existence, then such a system as our world requires a unifying efficient cause to posit it in existence as a unified whole.
Any such cause must be an intelligent cause, one that brings the system into being according to a unifying idea. For the unity of the whole—and of each one of the overarching, cosmic-wide, physical laws uniting elements under themselves—is what determines and correlates the parts. Hence it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor. But the unity, the wholeness, of the whole transcends any one part, and therefore cannot be contained in any one part. To be actually present all at once as a whole this unity can only be the unity of an organizing unifying idea. For only an idea can hold together many different elements at once without destroying or fusing their distinctness. That is almost the definition of an idea. Since the actual parts are spread out over space and time, the only way they can be together at once as an intelligible unity is within an idea. Hence the system of the world as a whole must live first within the unity of an idea.
Now a real idea cannot actually exist and be effectively operative save in a real mind, which has the creative power to bring such a system into real existence. Hence the sufficient reason for our ordered world-system must ultimately be a creative ordering Mind. A cosmic-wide order requires a cosmic-wide Orderer, which can only be a Mind.
Such an ordering Mind must be independent of the system itself, that is, transcendent; not dependent on the system for its own existence and operation. For if it were dependent on—or part of—the system, it would have to presuppose the latter as already existing in order to operate, and would thus have to both precede and follow itself. But this is absurd. Hence it must exist and be able to operate prior to and independent of the system.
Thus our material universe necessarily requires, as the sufficient reason for its actual existence as an operating whole, a Transcendent Creative Mind.

This argument reads like it’s a subtle variation of others already addressed. I really am getting the feeling that these 20 arguments are varying shades of grey and that the whole block set does not actually represent 20 distinct and separate arguments. To make things worse, this one seems worded to obfuscate rather than to clarify. Which is itself unhelpful.

That said, the argument starts with the claim that the world (did he actually mean universe?) is dynamic and ordered. Chaos theory and the laws of thermodynamics might have something to say about that. Critically, what is meant by ordered is not defined.

The description of hydrogen and oxygen combining is misleading and over simplistic (intentionally so?). The structure of the hydrogen atom is such that it can only form one bond, irrespective of what it is bonding to. The structure of oxygen is such that it can form two bonds, irrespective of what it is bonding to. This means that where oxygen and hydrogen bond, you will always and only get the 2:1 ratio described. The reason is down to the nature of atoms, each atom is different and bonds accordingly. That we get a pair of atoms that bond 2:1 is to be expected, there is nothing special or miraculous about that relationship.

each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act

Presupposes!

Note how once again the assumption is made, with no support, we’re supposed to accept that without question.

Things interact in nature, that they do does not mean that they were made for each other. It just means that they interact. It is as absurd as saying that a hole presupposes that there will be a puddle to fit it.

Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.

Claims without reference again. This is also a pretty meaningless snippet, it’s the sort of faux wonder you’d expect from a New Age healing pamphlet. Yes, the particles interact, yes the whole often helps us to understand the parts, that’s due to the nature of the interactions. So why the odd wording and the blatant avoidance of references to what it is that science has revealed?

Talking of new Age, the author makes the amazingly bold claim that there is a cosmic-wide Mind (note the capitol M) which must have created and ordered everything. Well, a mind can’t exist without a physical brain so where is the Brain (capitol B required) in which the Mind must live? Erp, we’ve fallen foul of the X requires Y of the previous argument. If the Mind requires the Brain, then where is the stuff that the Brain depends on. It seems the author was a bit sloppy in putting this one together.

Lets jump to the conclusions.

Atoms join up, make something bigger, it’s all amazing which means that there is….

a unifying efficient cause

which

must be an intelligent cause

therefore

it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor.

Note how there is not a single justification, explanation or reference to why this must be so. It is because the author says so.

Twenty Arguments for God – Seven – The Argument from Contingency

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 7:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#7
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

7. The Argument from Contingency

The basic form of this argument is simple.
If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.
What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.
Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.
Suppose you deny the first premise. Then if X exists, there need not exist what it takes for X to exist. But “what it takes for X to exist” means the immediate condition(s) for X’s existence. You mean that X exists only if Y. Without Y, there can be no X. So the denial of premise 1 amounts to this: X exists; X can only exist if Y exists; and Y does not exist. This is absurd. So there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist. But what does it take?
We spoke of the universe as “the collection of beings in space and time.” Consider one such being: yourself. You exist, and you are, in part at least, material. This means that you are a finite, limited and changing being, you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you. Not your parents or grandparents. They may no longer be alive, but you exist now. And right now you depend on many things in order to exist—for example, on the air you breathe. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent. You exist if something else right now exists.
But not everything can be like this. For then everything would need to be given being, but there would be nothing capable of giving it. There would not exist what it takes for anything to exist. So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself. What it takes for this thing to exist could only be this thing itself. Unlike changing material reality, there would be no distance, so to speak, between what this thing is and that it is. Obviously the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist cannot be identical with the universe itself or with a part of the universe.
Question 1: But why should we call this cause “God”? Maybe there is something unknown that grounds the universe of change we live in.
Reply: True. And this “unknown” is God. What we humans know directly is this sensible changing world. We also know that there must exist whatever it takes for something to exist. Therefore, we know that neither this changing universe as a whole nor any part of it can be itself what it takes for the universe to exist. But we have now such direct knowledge of the cause of changing things. We know that there must exist a cause; we know that this cause cannot be finite or material—that it must transcend such limitations. But what this ultimate cause is in itself remains, so far, a mystery.
There is more to be said by reason; and there is very much more God has made known about himself through revelation. But the proofs have given us some real knowledge as well: knowledge that the universe is created; knowledge that right now it is kept in being by a cause unbounded by any material limit, that transcends the kind of being we humans directly know. And that is surely knowledge worth having. We might figure out that someone’s death was murder and no accident, without figuring out exactly who did it and why, and this might leave us frustrated and unsatisfied. But at least we would know what path of questioning to pursue; at least we would know that someone did it.
So it is with the proofs. They let us know that at every moment the being of the universe is the creative act of a Giver—A Giver transcending all material and spiritual limitations. Beyond that, they do not tell us much about what or who this Giver is—but they point in a very definite direction. We know that this Ultimate Reality—the Giver of being—cannot be material. And we know the gift which is given includes personal being: intelligence, will and spirit. The infinite transcendent cause of these things cannot be less than they are, but must be infinitely more. How and in what way we do not know. To some extent this Giver must always remain unknown to human reason. We should never expect otherwise. But reason can at least let us know that “someone did it.” And that is of great value.

Here is another of those arguments which boils down to ‘stuff, therefore god’. I wonder why the author went to so much effort to essentially repeat the same fallacious argument using slightly different words and titles.

The logic starts off okay.

If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.

I’m okay with this so far (I’m ignoring the oddly phrased ‘collection of beings’), it does really need some evidential backup to support the premise though. It shouldn’t be assumed to be true just because I agree that it seems reasonable. One should make adequate steps to confirm what one assumes is true before making further assumptions based on it. I’m not even halfway through this list and how many times has that been said?

What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

This is where it starts to wobble. It seems a reasonable statement on the face of it, but it needs experimental confirmation before it can be asserted as a truth. The bounded by space and time is the critical part. We already know that the time that we experience depends on the matter in the universe. However, the phrasing of that sentence suggests to me that the author thinks that is not the case and that time (and space) may exist outside of the universe, there is some clarity missing. Making more assumptions based on unclear explanations will only lead to greater errors and more confusion.

The argument also assumes that there is indeed something outside of the universe on which the universe depends. Well, more accurately it’s trying to argue that that is indeed the case. Physics hasn’t been able to identify anything that is not within the universe. Our knowledge of how the universe came about is incomplete. All we can be certain of is that the laws that govern matter within the universe do not apply to the inception of the universe and if there is indeed an ‘outside the universe’ those laws certainly will not apply. Yet this argument seems to ignore all of that and carry on with its own conclusions based on arguments that can be observed within the universe. This is a basic error.

So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself.

Please tell me you saw that bit coming. It should have been obvious. The author is a Christian, so of course the non conditional existing thing is the Christian god, nothing else would be accepted. This really is a case of framing the argument around the already assumed but unevidenced conclusion. Why can’t the non conditional existing thing be the universe or the bigger god that created the Christian god? Both of those suggestions fit the logic. The author would reject those two options because they don’t result in the Christian god. The Christian god is the X that needs no Y and no other option will be discussed or considered.

Twenty Arguments for God – Six – The Kalam Argument

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 6:
http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#6
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

6. The Kalam Argument

The Arabic word kalam literally means “speech,” but came to denote a certain type of philosophical theology—a type containing demonstrations that the world could not be infinitely old and must therefore have been created by God. This sort of demonstration has had a long and wide appeal among both Christians and Muslims. Its form is simple and straightforward.
Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.
Grant the first premise. (Most people—outside of asylums and graduate schools would consider it not only true, but certainly and obviously true.)
Is the second premise true? Did the universe—the collection of all things bounded by space and time—begin to exist? This premise has recently received powerful support from natural science—from so-called Big Bang Cosmology. But there are philosophical arguments in its favor as well. Can an infinite task ever be done or completed? If, in order to reach a certain end, infinitely many steps had to precede it, could the end ever be reached? Of course not—not even in an infinite time. For an infinite time would be unending, just as the steps would be. In other words, no end would ever be reached. The task would—could—never be completed.
But what about the step just before the end? Could that point ever be reached? Well, if the task is really infinite, then an infinity of steps must also have preceded it. And therefore the step just before the end could also never be reached. But then neither could the step just before that one. In fact, no step in the sequence could be reached, because an infinity of steps must always have preceded any step; must always have been gone through one by one before it. The problem comes from supposing that an infinite sequence could ever reach, by temporal succession, any point at all.
Now if the universe never began, then it always was. If it always was, then it is infinitely old. If it is infinitely old, then an infinite amount of time would have to have elapsed before (say) today. And so an infinite number of days must have been completed—one day succeeding another, one bit of time being added to what went before—in order for the present day to arrive. But this exactly parallels the problem of an infinite task. If the present day has been reached, then the actually infinite sequence of history has reached this present point: in fact, has been completed up to this point—for at any present point the whole past must already have happened. But an infinite sequence of steps could never have reached this present point—or any point before it.
So, either the present day has not been reached, or the process of reaching it was not infinite. But obviously the present day has been reached. So the process of reaching it was not infinite. In other words, the universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being, a Creator.
Question 1: Christians believe they are going to live forever with God. So they believe the future will be endless. How come the past cannot also be endless?
Reply: The question really answers itself. Christians believe that their life with God will never end. That means it will never form an actually completed infinite series. In more technical language: an endless future is potentially—but never actually—infinite. This means that although the future will never cease to expand and increase, still its actual extent will always be finite. But that can only be true if all of created reality had a beginning.
Question 2: How do we know that the cause of the universe still exists? Maybe it started the universe going and then ceased to be.
Reply: Remember that we are seeking for a cause of spatio-temporal being. This cause created the entire universe of space and time. And space and time themselves must be part of that creation. So the cause cannot be another spatio-temporal being. (If it were, all the problems about infinite duration would arise once again.) It must somehow stand outside the limitations and constraints of space and time.
It is hard to understand how such a being could “cease” to be. We know how a being within the universe ceases to be: it comes in time to be fatally affected by some agency external to it. But this picture is proper to us, and to all beings limited in some way by space and time. A being not limited in these ways cannot “come” to be or “cease” to be. If it exists at all, it must exist eternally.
Question 3: But is this cause God—a he and not a mere it?
Reply: Suppose the cause of the universe has existed eternally. Suppose further that this cause is not personal: that it has given rise to the universe, not through any choice, but simply through its being. In that case it is hard to see how the universe could be anything but infinitely old, since all the conditions needed for the being of the universe would exist from all eternity. But the kalam argument has shown that the universe cannot be infinitely old. So the hypothesis of an eternal impersonal cause seems to lead to an inconsistency.
Is there a way out? Yes, if the universe is the result of a free personal choice. Then at least we have some way of seeing how an eternal cause could give rise to a temporally limited effect. Of course, the kalam argument does not prove everything Christians believe about God, but what proof does? Less than everything, however, is far from nothing. And the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth. And in doing so, it disproves the picture of the universe most atheists wish to maintain: self-sustaining matter, endlessly changing in endless time.

I’ve noticed this one is favoured by those who elevate philosophical ideas above what can be evidentially demonstrated. They are a hard bunch to argue with, not because of the soundness of their arguments, but because of their imperviousness to facts. Also, his majesty WLC loves this one and anything he says must be true!

Because of it’s popularity, there are many pages on the internet that address this argument, one I found which was spoken well of is this one http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/wes2craig1.pdf. At time of writing I’ve only partially read it, I do intend to complete it but I’ll not be making any reference to it in this post.

Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.

This sounds fair on the face of it. However, definitions are required for ‘whatever’, ‘begins’, ‘exist’, ’cause’ and ‘being’. As it stands, the sentence is a vague bit of tautological faux-profundity that actually means nothing.

The universe began to exist.

That premise needs demonstrating. As I’ve mentioned in response to another item, time is dependent on matter because without matter there is no time to be experienced and the universe, being made up of matter, is the envelope in which we experience time. No universe, no time and no before. The universe beginning to exist is a claim missing many verification steps.

Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

Doesn’t follow because the preceding requirements are inadequately defined and not demonstrated. A conclusion based on undemonstrated premises is not safe.

To be perfectly honest, this argument does not impress me and I am so very glad that I never got into it as a Christian. I am constantly amazed by how much store is placed upon it.

A good example of why this sort of Christian apologetics leaves me cold and unamused is this:

the universe has a cause for its coming into being, a Creator.

Like everything else so far in this item, a claim is made with no definition of terms and zero supporting evidence and it’s expected to be accepted as truth. Also notice how ’cause’ has suddenly become ‘a Creator’, with a capital C. In other words, cause is the Christian god. I wonder if I should hit the bait and switch alarm again.

the kalam argument has shown that the universe cannot be infinitely old.

The author has too much confidence. The universe having a finite age is provided by the science of cosmology not philosophical flim flam.

if the universe is the result of a free personal choice. Then at least we have some way of seeing how an eternal cause could give rise to a temporally limited effect.

I’ll avoid asking what the hell the second sentence means because before that even becomes relevant the first needs to be demonstrated. Assuming it is true and running with it is dishonest, but then what else should we expect from Christian apologetics?

the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth. And in doing so, it disproves the picture of the universe most atheists wish to maintain: self-sustaining matter, endlessly changing in endless time.

Repeat after me, “Arguments are not proof!” For proof one needs supporting evidence for the arguments and additional evidence showing other options are false. The evidence needs to be demonstrable and the collection process repeatable otherwise the proof claim is highly suspect. This argument brings no evidence, instead it asserts that it is correct and arrogantly marches on.

As for that final sentence, do most atheists wish to maintain that? I’m not aware that’s the case, it’s certainly not true for me, so I’ll claim that as a flat out lie! Lying for the kingdom must be the apologists’ favourite pastime.

Twenty Arguments for God – Five – The Design Argument

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 5:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#5
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

5. The Design Argument

This sort of argument is of wide and perennial appeal. Almost everyone admits that reflection on the order and beauty of nature touches something very deep within us. But are the order and beauty the product of intelligent design and conscious purpose? For theists the answer is yes. Arguments for design are attempts to vindicate this answer, to show why it is the most reasonable one to give. They have been formulated in ways as richly varied as the experience in which they are rooted. The following displays the core or central insight.
The universe displays a staggering amount of intelligibility, both within the things we observe and in the way these things relate to others outside themselves. That is to say: the way they exist and coexist display an intricately beautiful order and regularity that can fill even the most casual observer with wonder. It is the norm in nature for many different beings to work together to produce the same valuable end—for example, the organs in the body work for our life and health. (See also argument 8.)
Either this intelligible order is the product of chance or of intelligent design.
Not chance.
Therefore the universe is the product of intelligent design.
Design comes only from a mind, a designer.
Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.
The first premise is certainly true-even those resistant to the argument admit it. The person who did not would have to be almost pathetically obtuse. A single protein molecule is a thing of immensely impressive order; much more so a single cell; and incredibly much more so an organ like the eye, where ordered parts of enormous and delicate complexity work together with countless others to achieve a single certain end. Even chemical elements are ordered to combine with other elements in certain ways and under certain conditions. Apparent disorder is a problem precisely because of the overwhelming pervasiveness of order and regularity. So the first premise stands.
If all this order is not in some way the product of intelligent design—then what? Obviously, it “just happened.” Things just fell out that way “by chance.” Alternatively, if all this order is not the product of blind, purposeless forces, then it has resulted from some kind of purpose. That purpose can only be intelligent design. So the second premise stands.
It is of course the third premise that is crucial. Ultimately, nonbelievers tell us, it is indeed by chance and not by any design that the universe of our experience exists the way it does. It just happens to have this order, and the burden of proof is on believers to demonstrate why this could not be so by chance alone.
But this seems a bit backward. It is surely up to nonbelievers to produce a credible alternative to design. And “chance” is simply not credible. For we can understand chance only against a background of order. To say that something happened “by chance” is to say that it did not turn out as we would have expected, or that it did turn out in a way we would not have expected. But expectation is impossible without order. If you take away order and speak of chance alone as a kind of ultimate source, you have taken away the only background that allows us to speak meaningfully of chance at all. Instead of thinking of chance against a background of order, we are invited to think of order-overwhelmingly intricate and ubiquitous order-against a random and purposeless background of chance. Frankly, that is incredible. Therefore it is eminently reasonable to affirm the third premise, not chance, and therefore to affirm the conclusion, that this universe is the product of intelligent design.
Question 1: Hasn’t the Darwinian theory of evolution shown us how it is possible for all the order in the universe to have arisen by chance?
Reply: Not at all. If the Darwinian theory has shown anything, it has shown, in a general way, how species may have descended from others through random mutation; and how survival of these species can be accounted for by natural selection—by the fitness of some species to survive in their environment. In no way does it—can it—account for the ubiquitous order and intelligibility of nature. Rather, it presupposes order. To quote a famous phrase: “The survival of the fittest presupposes the arrival of the fit.” If Darwinians wish to extrapolate from their purely biological theory and maintain that all the vast order around us is the result of random changes, then they are saying something which no empirical evidence could ever confirm; which no empirical science could ever demonstrate; and which, on the face of it, is simply beyond belief.
Question 2: Maybe it is only in this region of the universe that order is to be found. Maybe there are other parts unknown to us that are completely chaotic—or maybe the universe will one day in the future become chaotic. What becomes of the argument then?
Reply: Believers and nonbelievers both experience the same universe. It is this which is either designed or not. And this world of our common experience is a world of pervasive order and intelligibility. That fact must be faced. Before we speculate about what will be in the future or what may be elsewhere in the present, we need to deal honestly with what is. We need to recognize in an unflinching way the extent—the overwhelming extent—of order and intelligibility. Then we can ask ourselves: Is it credible to suppose that we inhabit a small island of order surrounded by a vast sea of chaos—a sea which threatens one day to engulf us?
Just consider how in the last decades we have strained fantastically at the limits of our knowledge; we have cast our vision far beyond this planet and far within the elements that make it up. And what has this expansion of our horizons revealed? Always the same thing: more—and not less—intelligibility; more—and not less—complex and intricate order. Not only is there no reason to believe in a surrounding chaos, there is every reason not to. It flies in the face of the experience that all of us—believers and nonbelievers—share in common.
Something similar can be said about the future. We know the way things in the universe have behaved and are behaving. And so, until we have some reason to think otherwise, there is every reason to believe it will continue on its orderly path of running down. No speculation can nullify what we know.
And, anyway, exactly what sort of chaos is this question asking us to imagine? That effect precedes cause? That the law of contradiction does not hold? That there need not be what it takes for some existing thing to exist? These suggestions are completely unintelligible; if we think about them at all, it is only to reject them as impossible. Can we imagine less order? Yes. Some rearrangement of the order we experience? Yes. But total disorder and chaos? That can never be considered as a real possibility. To speculate about it as if it were is really a waste of time.
Question 3: But what if the order we experience is merely a product of our minds? Even though we cannot think utter chaos and disorder, maybe that is how reality really is.
Reply: Our minds are the only means by which we can know reality. We have no other access. If we agree that something cannot exist in thought, we cannot go ahead and say that it might nevertheless exist in reality. Because then we would be thinking what we claim cannot be thought.
Suppose you claim that order is just a product of our minds. This puts you in a very awkward position. You are saying that we must think about reality in terms of order and intelligibility, but things may not exist that way in fact. Now to propose something for consideration is to think about it. And so you are saying: (a) we must think about reality in a certain way, but (b) since we think that things may not in fact exist that way, then (c) we need not think about reality the way we must think about it! Are we willing to pay that high a price to deny that the being of the universe displays intelligent design? It does not, on the face of it, seem cost effective.

Oh lordy this is a long one! I’ll only pick out a few bits. This post would be too long if I picked all of it apart. We shouldn’t be surprised at the length though, the design argument must surely be the theist’s favourite one. So who can blame them for throwing the most words at it! Unfortunately more words means more nonsense.

I’ll start with.

But are the order and beauty the product of intelligent design and conscious purpose?

Good question. An intelligent mind will see beauty and order in the most innocuous of things. See Pareidolia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia). Seeing something as beautiful or ordered does not make it so and therefore does not make it the product of intelligence.

The universe displays a staggering amount of intelligibility

ok… whatever that means, it needs to be defined. It’s not so I’ll move on.

Either this intelligible order is the product of chance or of intelligent design.
Not chance.
Therefore the universe is the product of intelligent design.
Design comes only from a mind, a designer.
Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.

In those few short lines we have a false dichotomy (http://www.philosophy-index.com/logic/fallacies/false-dilemma.php), two unfounded assertions, two unsafe conclusions, two undefined poorly explained options and an unconfirmed being. This really isn’t looking good.

“The survival of the fittest presupposes the arrival of the fit.”

Ah, the ol’ tautology gambit. A bit like saying god is good presupposes that god’s deeds are indeed good.

What the author is forgetting is that we only ever see the animals that survive. The author is also not entirely correct because those that survive are fit for their environments because if they were not they would not survive. Those that survive define what is fit. They might not be the best, fit does not have to mean they are the best, they are simply fit enough to got the proverbial shag behind the bushes.

this world of our common experience is a world of pervasive order and intelligibility. That fact must be faced.

Order and intelligibility really do need to be defined; they are thrown about like confetti with utter disregard for how the reader might interpret them. I find this rather dishonest. Are the storms on Jupiter ordered? Are flood waters ordered? Is the jet stream ordered? Is the asteroid belt ordered? What about the oort cloud? Are starling murmurations ordered? Is the explosion of a firework ordered? are the daily cloud formations ordered? are lighting strikes ordered? How about the way commuters pile out of a train station? When terms are not defined, any claim that uses them is of minimal value.

Question 1: Hasn’t the Darwinian theory of evolution shown us how it is possible for all the order in the universe to have arisen by chance?

Notice the jump between evolution and the existence of the universe? It happens several times in the text of this argument and it betrays a poor scientific understanding. Darwinian Evolution never claims to say anything about the universe. The question is incoherent and utterly pointless.

Question 3: But what if the order we experience is merely a product of our minds?

Good question, what is meant by order? Is it defined? Don’t hold your breath, it’s not.

Reply: Our minds are the only means by which we can know reality.

Unless it’s all an illusion.

I’ll not comment on the final sentences because in their attempt to be profound they disappear up their own pious arsehole.

Twenty Arguments for God – Four – The Argument from Degrees of Perfection

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 4:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#4

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

4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection

We notice around us things that vary in certain ways. A shade of color, for example, can be lighter or darker than another, a freshly baked apple pie is hotter than one taken out of the oven hours before; the life of a person who gives and receives love is better than the life of one who does not.
So we arrange some things in terms of more and less. And when we do, we naturally think of them on a scale approaching most and least. For example, we think of the lighter as approaching the brightness of pure white, and the darker as approaching the opacity of pitch black. This means that we think of them at various “distances” from the extremes, and as possessing, in degrees of “more” or “less,” what the extremes possess in full measure.
Sometimes it is the literal distance from an extreme that makes all the difference between “more” and “less.” For example, things are more or less hot when they are more or less distant from a source of heat. The source communicates to those things the quality of heat they possess in greater or lesser measure. This means that the degree of heat they possess is caused by a source outside of them.
Now when we think of the goodness of things, part of what we mean relates to what they are simply as beings. We believe, for example, that a relatively stable and permanent way of being is better than one that is fleeting and precarious. Why? Because we apprehend at a deep (but not always conscious) level that being is the source and condition of all value; finally and ultimately, being is better than nonbeing. And so we recognize the inherent superiority of all those ways of being that expand possibilities, free us from the constricting confines of matter, and allow us to share in, enrich and be enriched by, the being of other things. In other words, we all recognize that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being; that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot; that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal.
But if these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, then there must exist a “best,” a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings.
This absolutely perfect being—the “Being of all beings,” “the Perfection of all perfections”—is God.
Question 1: The argument assumes a real “better.” But aren’t all our judgments of comparative value merely subjective?
Reply: The very asking of this question answers it. For the questioner would not have asked it unless he or she thought it really better to do so than not, and really better to find the true answer than not. You can speak subjectivism but you cannot live it

Anyone else think that this is one long meander to a signpost that reads ‘The question has been begged.’?

The whole of this argument can be rephased as follows…

We subjectively rate things in the world as better or worse, therefore there exists an objective ‘best’.

The assertion doesn’t follow. There are several steps that have been skipped and the author has exhibited extreme laziness is not bothering to address them, probably hoping that no one will notice.

Weather it’s food, movies or what benefits our fellow human beings, what we as individuals call good is based on our individual preferences, this is evidenced by the differing tastes each person has and by the actions that come from them. If there was an objective goodness that magically motivated our souls, would there not be evidence in the form of some indivuals having exactly the same outlook? Yet, that evidence simply isn’t there.

With that in mind I’m going to rephrase the final sentence from the argument for your amusement.

You can believe objectivism, but you cannot demonstrate it.

Twenty Arguments for God – Three – The Argument from Time and Contingency

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 3:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#3

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

3. The Argument from Time and Contingency

We notice around us things that come into being and go out of being. A tree, for example, grows from a tiny shoot, flowers brilliantly, then withers and dies.
Whatever comes into being or goes out of being does not have to be; nonbeing is a real possibility.
Suppose that nothing has to be; that is, that nonbeing is a real possibility for everything.
Then right now nothing would exist. For
If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
From nothing nothing comes. So
The universe could not have begun.
But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built-in possibility not to be. But
If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized, then it could not have been a real possibility at all. So
There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
This absolutely necessary being is God.
Question1: Even though you may never in fact step outside your house all day, it was possible for you to do so. Why is it impossible that the universe still happens to exist, even though it was possible for it to go out of existence?
Reply: The two cases are not really parallel. To step outside your house on a given day is something that you may or may not choose to do. But if nonbeing is a real possibility for you, then you are the kind of being that cannot last forever. In other words, the possibility of nonbeing must be built-in, “programmed,” part of your very constitution, a necessary property. And if all being is like that, then how could anything still exist after the passage of an infinite time? For an infinite time is every bit as long as forever. So being must have what it takes to last forever, that is, to stay in existence for an infinite time. Therefore there must exist within the realm of being something that does not tend to go out of existence. And this sort of being, as Aquinas says, is called “necessary.”

Did you notice the bait and switch in this one?

Before I address that though, I am noticing a pattern in these first three items. They all focus on the fact that the universe exists and because we (as in our current state of human knowledge) can’t explain why, therefore there must be a god that put it in place. At its most basic it is an argument from ignorance in that a god is inserted where there is no currently accepted explanation. The language has evolved into something more sophisticated and of course I would expect adherents to deny this assertion. They have to.

The issue that this item tried to answer is that of infinite regress, a subject that will be revisited by later items I am sure. Whatever exists must have something that existed before it. A tree came from a seed which came from a previously existing tree and so on. The universe exists and so must come from something that existed before it. Therefore god. But wait, what about before god? Where is the super god that created the universe god? Why stop at the first god that is assumed from the existence of the universe? How can the author of this argument be sure of anything regarding the god that supposedly caused this universe? They can’t be sure, that’s the problem. They’ve presupposed a god then created an argument to support it, but as with all arguments for god, they can’t step beyond imagining, the imagined god can never be tested or confirmed. We are supposed to just accept it.

This brings me to the bait and switch. See this bit.

There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
This absolutely necessary being is God.

To paraphrase: before the universe, there must be something that caused it (not entirely unreasonable, but is it true? We should really test that before building arguments based on it.), that something must exist (so no test, just assume it’s true and carry on), that thing must be a being (oh?), and that being is god (boof, there it is!)

The bait and switch fallacy is explained more here: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Bait-and-switch

There is another issue with the argument that is presented in this item, which is the whole issue of before the universe. See this bit.

If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
From nothing nothing comes. So
The universe could not have begun.
But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built-in possibility not to be. But
If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized,

The author has forgotten (or maybe ignored) the very important detail that time is a feature of matter. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this already but I’ll do it again. How we experience time is directly related to our proximity to matter. The same is also true of how we experience gravity. This time experience is a calculatable and measurable phenomenon. It has to be accounted for in GPS satellites and it is the reason why your head is not the same age as your feet (https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2010/09/nist-clock-experiment-demonstrates-your-head-older-your-feet).

The ultimate conclusion from this is that time, as we understand and experience it, started with the universe. Thus the universe has existed for all of time and the question of what was before needs to first answer the difficulty of how you can have a before time. The author of this item has skipped a very important step in his rush to justify the god that he’s predetermined must exist.

Twenty Arguments for God – Two – The Argument from Efficient Causality

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 2:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#2

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

2. The Argument from Efficient Causality

We notice that some things cause other things to be (to begin to be, to continue to be, or both). For example, a man playing the piano is causing the music that we hear. If he stops, so does the music.
Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now? Suppose they are. That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God. Then nothing could exist right now. For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist. So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing things to be, need a cause. They can give being only so long as they are given being. Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.
But caused by what? Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing. But that is absurd: all of reality dependent—but dependent on nothing! The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.
Existence is like a gift given from cause to effect. If there is no one who has the gift, the gift cannot be passed down the chain of receivers, however long or short the chain may be. If everyone has to borrow a certain book, but no one actually has it, then no one will ever get it. If there is no God who has existence by his own eternal nature, then the gift of existence cannot be passed down the chain of creatures and we can never get it. But we do get it; we exist. Therefore there must exist a God: an Uncaused Being who does not have to receive existence like us—and like every other link in the chain of receivers.
Question 1: Why do we need an uncaused cause? Why could there not simply be an endless series of things mutually keeping each other in being?
Reply: This is an attractive hypothesis. Think of a single drunk. He could probably not stand up alone. But a group of drunks, all of them mutually supporting each other, might stand. They might even make their way along the street. But notice: Given so many drunks, and given the steady ground beneath them, we can understand how their stumblings might cancel each other out, and how the group of them could remain (relatively) upright. We could not understand their remaining upright if the ground did not support them—if, for example, they were all suspended several feet above it. And of course, if there were no actual drunks, there would be nothing to understand.
This brings us to our argument. Things have got to exist in order to be mutually dependent; they cannot depend upon each other for their entire being, for then they would have to be, simultaneously, cause and effect of each other. A causes B, B causes C, and C causes A. That is absurd. The argument is trying to show why a world of caused causes can be given—or can be there—at all. And it simply points out: If this thing can exist only because something else is giving it existence, then there must exist something whose being is not a gift. Otherwise everything would need at the same time to be given being, but nothing (in addition to “everything”) could exist to give it. And that means nothing would actually be.
Question 2: Why not have an endless series of caused causes stretching backward into the past? Then everything would be made actual and would actually be—even though their causes might no longer exist.
Reply: First, if the kalam argument (argument 6) is right, there could not exist an endless series of causes stretching backward into the past. But suppose that such a series could exist. The argument is not concerned about the past, and would work whether the past is finite or infinite. It is concerned with what exists right now.
Even as you read this, you are dependent on other things; you could not, right now, exist without them. Suppose there are seven such things. If these seven things did not exist, neither would you. Now suppose that all seven of them depend for their existence right now on still other things. Without these, the seven you now depend on would not exist—and neither would you. Imagine that the entire universe consists of you and the seven sustaining you. If there is nothing besides that universe of changing, dependent things, then the universe—and you as part of it—could not be. For everything that is would right now need to be given being but there would be nothing capable of giving it. And yet you are and it is. So there must in that case exist something besides the universe of dependent things—something not dependent as they are.
And if it must exist in that case, it must exist in this one. In our world there are surely more than seven things that need, right now, to be given being. But that need is not diminished by there being more than seven. As we imagine more and more of them—even an infinite number, if that were possible—we are simply expanding the set of beings that stand in need. And this need—for being, for existence—cannot be met from within the imagined set. But obviously it has been met, since contingent beings exist. Therefore there is a source of being on which our material universe right now depends.

I hope I’m not the only person who read that and thought ‘This is just a rephrasing of no1 with the focus on existing rather than changing.’. I can see this series getting tedious and boring very quickly. Especially now that I know that no6 (Kalam) is coming and this seemed like a basic version of that.

This argument makes sense on a superficial level, in that things don’t suddenly pop into existence before our eyes. Stuff is generally created from other stuff. Offspring come from parents and the chain never loops back to the start. The argument extrapolates from that to the point that everything within the universe must ultimately be caused by the universe at the start of the chain and therefore the universe has a cause that must be outside the universe. The logic makes sense at face value, but philosophy runs into difficulty when it addresses these questions. This is because the physicists who have spent time working on the very problem of how the universe came into existence say that the laws of physics break down when we rewind to a point very soon after the universe came into being. We currently have no way of explaining beyond that point, but it is being worked on. The argument presented above ignores the hard facts of science and jumps to it’s conclusion with no method of demonstrating its workings. One of the biggest issues with trying to find a cause to the universe is that matter and time are intrinsically related, how we experience time is related to the matter around us (and our velocity with respect to the speed of light, but that’s not relevant to this specific item so I’ll not mention it again in this post). This means that time, as we know and experience it, started at the point that the universe started, which means that it is possible to have a universe that has existed since the dawn of time. It also means that trying to find something that caused the universe, and therefore existed before time began, is pretty much an impossible task. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it a go and thankfully scientists are giving it a go, bit by bit we’re gathering new information to try and make some sense of this conundrum. As such, the suggestion that there is a cause of the universe is somewhat presumptuous, especially when there is no current way of confirming that. The premise of the argument works within the confines of our known universe; stuff comes from other stuff, we know this because we can scientifically explain the parent ‘stuff’. Unfortunately, like the laws of physics, this argument falls apart when you get to that critical point close to the big bang. The argument tries to resolve that challenge by claiming there must be a god but posits no way to of detecting that god, we should just accept that it must exist.

We have in this item, the same mistakes and presuppositions as in item one, that there must exist the Christian god who created everything. The argument is worded simplistically and skips over the challenges of reality and ignores what is known to science in a desperate bit to make the desired god be the only available conclusion.