The cosmological argument is a posterior argument that has a long history, going back to the great classical philosophers of Plato, Aristotle, Leibnitz and Kant. All of them believed that the universe was the result of a transcendent being called G-d. Although these philosophers may have had different ideas about G-d, they all agreed that the universe was not self-explanatory and must have had a sole cause in order for it to come into existence. Although the cosmological argument had various forms, each version focused on a key fundamental question: Why the universe began, why it was created and who or what created it. The case for the Cosmological Argument is best and most famously put forward by St Thomas Aquinas in his book Summa Theologicae which contained the ‘Five ways’
The argument starts off with his rejection of the ontological argument, as he says “[…] an argument that says G-d’s existence is self-evident we cannot use […] as we can’t see the self-evidence.” He argued that one first needs to argue about G-d from the evidence we find in the world today. This is quite an Aristotelian concept; Aristotle was a philosopher who Aquinas studied in Cologne and translated his works. His first argument was the “Unmoved mover” argument. The argument is concerned with things that change. Everything that is in motion is moved by something else, infinite regress is impossible; therefore there must be a first mover. The movement, to which Aquinas is referring, is the movement from one state to another, from potentiality to actuality. This is not an argument relating to the beginning of the universe; rather it relates to the way everything depends on something else for the changes to occur. For Aquinas, the changes occur from moment to moment depending on the first mover (i.e. G-d).
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This first argument is very similar to the next argument which Aquinas called the uncaused cause or the first cause argument. In the world, we find an order of efficient causes. There is no case where a thing is found to be its own efficient cause; it would have to exist before itself, which is impossible. Efficient causes cannot go to infinity because the first cause is the cause of middle and the middle cause of end cause. Without a cause, there is no effect. If causes went to infinity, there would be no intermediate cause and no present effect for us. There must be a first efficient cause, which is in itself uncaused. The focus of this argument is again on dependency, that everything depends upon something else to cause it. The difference between this argument and the first argument is that this argument is focused upon the things that cause something to change, rather than the things themselves which change which is what the unmoved mover is concerned about.
The Unmoved mover focuses on the present moment whereas the first cause focuses on the past up to the present moment. It is therefore logical to see how the two fit together to give a greater understanding. For example, wood has the potential to turn into fire, but it needs the cause of a spark in order to move from potentiality to actuality and turn into fire. The third part of his argument is the necessity and contingency argument. The argument states that some contingent beings exist, if any contingent being existed, then a necessary being must exist (because contingent beings require a necessary being as their ultimate cause), therefore there exists a necessary being (which is the ultimate cause of the existence of contingent beings). C.S. Evans expounds on the argument “[…] Ultimately the explanation of contingent beings’ existence will be incomplete unless there exists a necessary being, a being which cannot fail to exist, who is the cause of all contingent beings[…].”
The argument needs an explanation of the definition of contingency and necessity. The necessary being is formally known as G-d who is needed to start off the chain of dependant beings who need a necessary being in order for their existence to come about. A Dependant being cannot exist without being caused to exist by something which is not dependant and in itself has not been caused to exist which would suggest a dependency. The kalam cosmological argument stems from Aquinas’s cosmological argument. It has recently been restored to popularity by William Lane Craig. Like all cosmological arguments, the kalam cosmological argument is an argument from the existence of the world or universe to the existence of God.
This argument has the following logical structure: Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence. The universe has a beginning in its existence. The universe has a cause for its existence. If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is G-d, therefore G-d exists. What distinguishes the kalam cosmological argument from other forms of the cosmological argument is that it rests on the idea that the universe has a beginning in time. Modal forms of the cosmological argument are consistent with the universe having an infinite past. According to the kalam cosmological argument, however, it is precisely because the universe is thought to have a beginning in time that its existence is thought to stand in need of explanation.
In conclusion, all three arguments are interconnected to form the cosmological argument. The unmoved mover is concerned with the things themselves that change whilst the uncaused cause is focused on the things which cause them to change and the necessity and contingency argument explains the theory behind, all have the same consistency about the universe not being infinite, that it has a beginning which G-d caused because G-d is the necessary being which causes all things contingent to exist in a chain of causes. To what extent is the cosmological argument convincing. The philosopher Leibniz supports Aquinas and his argument that there must be a necessary reality or being “We assume that things in the world happen for a reason, why can’t we assume this about the world as a whole?” here, he is saying that if we broaden the perspective of understanding from experience, we can apply it to the Universe, to find what out what created it. This supports Thomas Aquinas by using a posterior experience to suggest that the universe and world were created by G-d.
However contrary to the logical outline of Thomas Aquinas’s argument, there have been many criticisms against it. The idea of infinite regress is one that Aquinas was against, he says that there must be a first cause, however, it is possible there was no such first cause. William Temple argued “[…]It is impossible to imagine infinite regress […] but it is not impossible to conceive it.” He meant that something is unthinkable if we cannot hold the concept without contradiction. But infinite does not contradict regress; you can imagine infinity but not think of it, the world makes sense as a concept and can be understood. It is impossible to imagine which shows the limitation of the imagination but not of things. If infinite regress exists, then in that amount of time anything could happen, for example, someone trying to roll a dice to get six one million times in a row, however unlikely it may seem, if an infinite amount of time was had, it would happen. Although logical, Aquinas is detracting people from a possible argument for the existence of G-d by refusing to concede the possibility of infinite regression.
David Hume also argued against Aquinas’ argument. Hume believed “there is no necessary connection between cause and effect” meaning that we look at one thing and believe that we are seeing it causing an effect on another, what we are really seeing is one thing happening close to another. Relating to the world Hume believed that even if it did have a cause for being, then it would be impossible to see what it is, as we have not experienced the creation of the universe and cannot get out of the universe to see what caused it when nothing was before. Hume believed that all knowledge comes from experience, and thus the experiences we have had are not adequate for us to know if G-d created the universe. Hume’s views are also supported by Russell, who argued that just because we see individual things as having a cause; it doesn’t mean that the universe also has a cause. Russell believed that the universe was a “Brute Fact” and it was “just there, and that’s all there is to say about it.” Although the Universe is “there” it doesn’t mean it had a beginning.
Modern scientists say that Aquinas’ argument rests on the assumption no longer necessarily holds true that is “Everything must have a cause. However, scientists have proven that sub-atomic particles can come into existence without a cause. Scientists today do not believe that it is a law that everything must have a cause, especially at the subatomic level in modern physics. This is damaging to Aquinas’ argument because one of the conditions is that everything in the universe had a cause, and this leads back to the original or first cause. Stephen Hawking comments “If the universe was completely self-contained it could neither be created nor destroyed” which means that there is no need for an outside cause in the creation of the universe or a beginning.
The continuous questioning is part of human nature; we cannot accept that the universe may be reality itself as it has not been proved. We, therefore, need to believe in some external intelligent creator. Aquinas’ argument is the product of this human belief that we are the subject of design, in a series of causes and effects that can be traced to a definite cause which itself is uncaused. Aquinas is logical and his argument understandable, but it is inhuman logic and experience which is trapped and ultimately flawed where it fails to look beyond human experience, something that we can, not ourselves image but rather to speculate over, as we will never know what there was before the universe. Hume’s criticisms consider these possibilities, making sense logically and outlining limitations of human experience.
“We are prepared to argue that because there are causes of things within the universe, there is a cause for the universe as a whole?” we do not know because there is no way of knowing. Furthermore, the advances made in recent years in science shows that an effect does not follow on from a cause from the advances in quantum physics, particles can come into existence with no explanation. Aquinas’ logic is understandable, and the argument believable, but it is the expansion of human understanding and discovery that will eventually disprove logic as we encounter the unbelievable and so his argument will become less convincing over time.