The Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological Argument

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The Cosmological Arguments

COSMOLOGY= The study of the nature of the universe. These arguments try to infer using inductive reasoning the existence of God from the existence of the cosmos or phenomena. A POSTERIORI SYNTHETIC ARGUMENT whose premise is that uni exists and cannot cause itself

Based on contingency and states that:

  • things have come into existence because something has caused them to happen.
  • things are caused to exist, but they don't have to exist.
  • chain of causes which goes back to the beginning of time.
  • time began with the creation of the universe.
  • there must have been a first cause to bring the universe into existence.
  • the first cause must have necessity existence to cause the contingent universe.
  • God has necessary existence.
  • therefore God is the first cause of the contingent universe's existence.

PRE-DATES CHRISTIANITY. Plato developed the earliest forms and argued that in order for movement to occur in the first place there must have been an uncaused cause to originate the movement.

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Aquinas- deeply religious man

  • developed the FIVE WAYS ( he called DEMONSTRATIO) to prove the existence of God which he put forward in Summa Theologica. First 3 proved the existence of God: 1) motion/change 2) cause 3) contingency. developed most pop. theory after re-discovering Aristotle's theory of the unmoved mover.

Motion or Change

  • whatever is in motion should have been moved by something else, and according to A, chain of movement cannot go back to infinity. Must have been a first cause -> GOD. "whatever is moved is moved by another"
  • Things only moved when an external force was applied to it.
  • things achieving their potential through an external influence e.g. fire making wood hot. IN ORDER FOR SOMETHING TO CHANGE ACTUALITY IS REQUIRED. If not, a thing would have to initiate the change itself which would mean it would have to be potential and actual at the same time (contradiction) .e.g if wood could make itself hot then it would be hot already. The fact that it is not is it's actuality.
  • did not accept that there is such thing as a series of infinite changes. "it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God".
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  • identified a series of causes and effects in the universe. Nothing can be the cause of itself, as this would mean it would have to exist before it existed (logical impossibility)
  • Rejects series of infinite causes and believed there must have been a first cause which was God. "There is no case known in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself"


  • identified the contingency of matter in the universe.
  • things come into existence and later cease to exist. There must have been a time when nothing existed.
  • cause of universe=external and must have always existed.
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Criticisms of Aquinas' Argument

  • some scholars argue that his arguments rest on assumptions which are no longer widely held. Ancient and Medieval science though in terms of hierarchy of causes which is different to modern day thinking.
  • why can't there be an endless series of causes? In reply, MACKIE (miracle of theism) cites the analogy of an infinite number of carriages. Each carriage may move others but ultimately it can't work without an engine.
  • why can't there be some contingent items that have lasted throughout time and show their contingency by perishing at some time in the future?
  • If nothing causes itself how can God be an uncaused causer?
  • Why a single termination? Why must the regress lead to a first cause? Independent happenings might lead back to causes which are independent of each other therefore no first cause but a plurality of causes.
  • Why can't the 3 ways have a different God for each? why should it lead to the God in the Christian concept? why should God be the originator and now no longer exist e.g. mother causes child then dies.
  • universe is not contingent i.e. matter of energy in the universe=eternal. Particular objects come and go but the matter by which they are composed never changes.
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The Kalam Version

William Lane Craig Developed modern version of the argument in his book "The Kalam Cosmological Argument" (1979) FIRST PART STATES:

  • present would not exist in an infinite universe because successive additions cannot be added to an actual infinite.
  • present does exist -> as a result of chronological series of past events.
  • universe must be finite. Finite universe must have had a beginning.
  • whatever began to exist had a cause, as things cannot cause themselves.
  • therefore the universe had a first cause of it's existence. This first cause was God.

He concluded that:

  • history of the universe was formed by one event following after another event- successive addition.
  • a collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
  • therefore the universe must have had a beginning in time.
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SECOND PART STATES: (seeks to prove God as the 'personal creator' of uni

  • if universe had a beginning - either had natural occurrence or choice to bring uni into existence.
  • supporters claim since rules of nature didn't exist before uni, uni cannot be result of natural causes.
  • argument= based on belief that God created earth "ex nihilo".
  • if God created out of nothing, then beginning of the universe was beginning of time.
  • must have been a personal agent existing outside time to start the process of creation, who willed uni into existence.

Ed Miller -> argument developed on passage of time

  • infinite uni would have infinite number of days.
  • end of an infinite series of days can't be reached so today would never arrive.
  • today has arrived so the past cannot be infinite.
  • time began when the universe began; events are caused. Beginning of uni was an event, therefore must have been a first cause; GOD.

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Gottefried Leibniz

  • accepted argument as he believed there had to be a "sufficient reason" for the universe to exist.
  • rejected an infinite universe as not a satisfactory explanation of its existence.
  • Quentin Smith argued against "Kalam" by using Quantam mechanics to demonstrate the possibility of things existing without direct cause. God may have had a beginning but not necessarily God.
  • The world changes-> whatever changes is contingent and lacks within itself the reason for its own existence. Sufficient reason for everything either within itself/outside itself. Therefore must be first cause outside of uni w/ own reason.


  • supreme being as first cause of the uni.
  • argued idea of every event have a first cause is only in world of sense experience. Cannot apply this to something we haven't experienced.
  • wouldn't accept it's valid to extend our knowledge that we don't possess to questions which transcend our experience. As God is outside time/space would be impossible for people to have any knowledge of what God created or God himself.
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How successful was the C.A.?

major objections: infinity is impossible & that universe had a beginning. Aquinas & Craig contradict themselves when they reject infinity. They both deny the infinite yet argue God is infinite. But supporters point out that God is unique and that laws of nature don't apply.

Anthony Kenny

  • In "The Five Ways" 1965, claims that A's theory of nothing moving itself contradicts the idea that humans and animals move themselves.
  • Newton's first law of motion-> movement can be explained by a body's own inertia from previous motion disapproves of A's argument. N's law "wrecks the argument of the First Way"

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David Hume

  • In "Dialogues concerning Natural Religion" he asked why we must conclude why the universe had to have a beginning. "How can anything that exists from eternity have a cause" as this relation implies a priority in time and in a beginning of existence.

Like causes resemble like effects: the most that can derive from finite effects are finite causes. We have no experience of universes being made: nothing counts for or against hypothesis about origin of everything. SWINBURNE rejects this view as he argues that everything is unique under some description. It is one thing to say that every human has a mother but that one cannot move from this to say that there is a mother for the whole human race. No proposition about existence can be logically necessary: Aquinas doesn't claim that God's existence is logically necessary but claims that existence of God is necessary GIVEN motion, cause, contingency etc. "Necessary being" have no consistent meaning: any being claimed to exist may/may not exist. "All existential propositions are synthetic" An infinite series is possible: if this is true, no sufficient reason and no end to regress of justification. No way of establishing principle of causality.

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The BIG BANG theory provides a scientific explanation for the beginning of the universe and is used for proof for/against existence of God. Was it natural/divine?

Frederik Copleston

  • "a supreme perfect being distinct from the world and creator of the world".a Jesuit catholic priest. he presents a REFORMATION of Aquinas's third way


  • there are some things which need not exist- they are contingent and look beyond themselves for the reasons of their existence. Peter Vardy -> "The puzzle of God"-> gives "you and I" as an example without our parents having met, we wouldn't exist. Means that the existence of some things can be explained by referring to something beyond themselves. They depend on something else for their existence.
  • suggests world= sum total of all objects. None of these objects contain within themselves the reason of their own existence.
  • if everything within the world requires something to exist, the cause must be external to the universe. A being which exists but its existence is "self-explanatory"
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Radio Debate between Copleston and Russell 1948

  • Russell refused to accept the idea of necessary beings. Just because every human has a mother does not mean that human race as a whole has a mother. He thought that the uni was merely a "brute fact" -> "I should say that the universe is just there and that's all". This was his reply after Russell asked Copleston if he thought that the universe was "gratuitous".

Principle of Sufficient Reason: related to idea of contingency. If all things are dependant, then there must be a necessary being to provide a reason for all this dependency. God is therefore in a special category of his own. But R raises: where does this special category come from? Why should we accept that there is such a category? R believed no reason for uni's existence so it was pointless trying to find a reason for it. C likened his approach of denying problems like someone refusing to even sit down at the chess board, make a move, can't and of be checkmated. Move from the dependancy of individual beings to the dependancy of whole uni: Russell argues explaining the cause of the uni is meaningless like trying to explain the number of reasons why people read a book. There is not one reason as to why someone reads a book.

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Russell argus that whether an explanation for the uni as a whole is possible or not, explanation is beyond reach of humans. Copelston however argues that a sufficient explanation of the uni that includes explaining why there is any universe at all is important. He uses the word "dogmatic" to describe R's refusal to enter into the debate about the ultimate cause of the uni existing and continuing to exist.

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Janet Mathias

This is Excellent! but way beyond my comprehension! I'd like some readers to post some quizzes about the following I am taking at school.  The nature of God, The Infinitude of God, The Holiness righteousness and Justice of God, the truthfullness, faithfulness and love of God, the works of God, the preexistence and incarnation of christ, the deity of christ....


Good notes.

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