The Cosmological Argument

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Aquinas' 5 Ways

Summa Theologica

First Way: The Argument from Motion

There are things that exist that are in motion (change or development). These things require other things to move (change) them. This chain of movement cannot continue forever so there must exist and unmoved mover.

Second Way: The Argument from Efficient Cause

Everything that exists has a cause. Nothing can cause itself but this chain of causation cannot continue forever. There must be an uncaused causer.

Third Way: The Argument from Contingency

There are things that exist that are contingent (rely on something else for their existence). These things require other things to create them. This chain of contingency cannot continue forever so there must exist an uncreated creator.


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Kalam Cosmological Argument

Originally proposed by Islamic theologists Al-Kindi and Al-Ghazali

William Lane-Craig then chose to develop it more recently.

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause

2) The Universe began to exist

3) Therefore, the Universe has a cause.

4) There are no actual infinites so there must exist something that didn't begin to exist.

5) The cause of the Universe is therefore a necessary being

6) The cause of the Universe is God.

Lane-Craig said that you can't have actual infinities using the Analogy of the Infinite Library. If there was a library with infinite red books and infinite black books, if you removed all of the black books you would still have an infinite number of books in the library. The total of a subtraction cannot be the same number as the number you're taking away from.

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1948 Radio Debate: Bertrand Russell

"The Universe is just there, and that is all."

The universe is actually self coherent and requires no external explanation. A causes B, C causes A, E caused D, B caused E. 

Just because the Universe is made up of contingent things, it doesn't mean that the universe itself is contingent. This is the Fallacy of Composition.While each human being has a mother, it doesn't mean that the human race has a mother.

The existence of the universe is simply a brute fact.

Russell says nothing can actually exist necessarily. The only things that are necessary are analytic statements (statements which would be self-contray to deny 'a vixen is a female fox'). 

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1948 Radio Debate: Frederick Copleston

Argued based on Aquinas' 5 Ways and Leibniz's Argument from Sufficient Reason.

1) Things exist that are contingent

2) The Universe is made entirely of contingent things

3) Therefore the Universe is contingent.

4) The Universe needs an external explanation

5) The explanation must be a necessary being. A thing that cannot-not exist.

6) Therefore, the explanation for the Universe is God

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David Hume

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Hume said the cosmological argumetn is false because cause and effect doesn't really exist in the context of the argument. Cause and effect is something that we read into the universe and only applies to things that exist in the universe. You can't assume that the universe must then have a cause.

The Universe is also not perfect. How can the cause of an imperfect universe be a perfect God?

Experience leads us to beliefve that things are created by two beings: one male and one female. It makes more biological sense for there to be at least 2 Gods who reproduced to create the universe.

Brian Davies: the universe cannot have caused itself. 

Richard Swineburne: Universe doesn't have to be perfect to be created by God. God created the best possible world, not a perfect one. Swineburne also used Occam's Razor; don't multiply beings unnecessarily, you make less assumptions about the world by believing the only one God.

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Overview of the Cosmological Argument

Cosmos= order. Implies that the Universe is an orderly system

An a posteriori argument: based on observing the world arround us, not pure logic.

Inductive: aims to persuade us based on its premises rather than actually proving it to us.

Based on the concept of Causation.

William Lane-Craig: a chain of causation cannot exist forever as there are no actual infinites and so there must exist a non-physical, non-timebound and non-caused being. 

Aquinas' Ways based on the arguments from Aristotle. Aristotle said there must exist a Prime Mover; something that exists and causes other things to exist but was caused itself. Also, everything that exists has 4 causes: formal, efficient, material and final. The formal cause is the things actuality, the material cause is the things potential to change, the efficient cause is what makes the thing become actual and the final cause is the things ultimiate purpose.

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Questions about the Argument

Does the universe need an explanation?

Gottfried Leibniz: sufficient reason means that everything needs and explanation, including the universe.

Betrand Russell: the existence of the universe is a brute fact. It needs to explanation.

Is cause and effect real?

Thomas Aquinas: by motion, cause and contingency we experience cause and effect all the time.

David Hume: cause and effect is invalid and could be an illusion

Is God a necessary being?

Fredrick Copleston: by definition, God is self-explanatory. He cannot not exist

Immanuel Kant: a necessary being is a meaningless contradition. Things cannot exist necessarily.

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Is the Argument Effective?

Faith and Reason

Fideism: logic and reason is not a replacement for faith. Using the cosmological argument actually damages the personal relationship with God.

Natural Theology: Using observation to prove the existence of God is useful.


The Big Bang Theory is accepted as a random occurance, undermining the 2nd Way. Could be said that the Big Bang must have had a cause.  The Steady State Theory would undermine the 3rd Way if the universe is actually eternal. Steady State has been disproven.

String Theory and M-Theory supports the idea of multiple universes so to say God is the cause of an infinite number of universes goes beyond anything we could ever observe.

David Hume: just because we assume the world needs a sufficient cause, it doesn't mean that it has to be God. If we hear a brass band, its better to assume someone's playing a CD than assuming there's a full brass band in the corridor.

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