Weaknesses of the cosmological argument
- Just because we can observe cause and effect in the universe does not mean that this rule applies to the universe itself. This is often called the 'fallacy of composition' (what is true for the parts is not true for the whole).
- Whilst we can talk about things that we have experience with certainty, we have no experience of creating a universe and therefore cannot talk meaningfully about it.
- Hume argued that the fundamental premise of the Cosmological Argument that every event must have a cause could be neither be proved not established. There is not enough evidence to say whether the universe had a cause and definitely not enough to make any conclusion as to what the cause might have been.
- Even if 'God' could be accepted as the cause of the universe, there is no way to determine what sort of God this would be and certainly no way of determining if it was the God of classical theism. Aquinas argued that there must be ‘at least one necessary being’. Hume questioned why there had to be just one necessary being, when there could in fact be many such beings.
- Hume questions why motion needs to have a starting point - in other words why infinite regression is impossible. Surely if there can be an understanding of a prime mover there can be an understanding of perpetual motion, because the prime mover must be, ironically, in perpetual motion.
Hume implies two possibilities:
- 1. That the universe could simply be ‘brute fact’. That is we do not require a first cause.
- 2. A beginning does not automatically mean God was responsible.
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant agreed with Hume’s reasoning on the limits of human knowledge, which he founded his criticisms of the cosmological arguments on:
- The idea of cause and effect only applies in the realm of sense experiences - if we have not experienced something with our senses we can make no claim on it.
- To suggest God as the cause of the universe is equally nonsensical as he also lies outside the realm of sense experience.
In 1947 there was a famous BBC radio debate between the Christian Philosopher Frederick Copleston and the famous atheist Bertrand Russell.
Russell refused to accept two key underlying assumptions of the Cosmological argument:
1. The assumption that the universe is contingent or dependent on something outside the universe for its existence
Russell refused to use the terms `contingent` and `dependence` with reference to the universe. He famously argued: “I should say that the universe is just there, and that is all.” What he meant by this was that he accepted the existence of the universe as just a brute fact – he felt no need to ask why it is there or what caused it to…