Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument has its roots in Greek philosophy with Plato and Aristotle, and over the years has been developed into a family of argument by Christian, Jewish and Islamic theologians. The most famous of these, the Kalam Cosmological argument was primarily developed by Medieval Islamic theologians, principally Al Ghazali in the 11th century, and argues that there must be a sufficient cause of the existence that is eternal. The Thomist Cosmological argument, developed by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century and expounded in the first three of his Five Ways, also argues for a first cause. However, unlike the Kalam argument, the Thomist argument argues for a first cause not in the temporal sense, but a first source, or originator. The First Way is an argument for an Unmoved Mover, a thing that set everything else into motion. The Second Way is an argument for an Uncaused First Cause of existence. The Third Way is an argument for an Absolutely Necessary Being based on the existence of contingent beings. Contrary, to what TheAmazingAtheist claims, these are not the same argument. Different subsets of the same argument maybe, but to claim they are the same would betray a fundamental ignorance of the Thomistic material. The Leibnizian Cosmological argument was developed by G.W.F. Leibniz in the 17th century. Unlike the previous two, this argument does not argue from sufficient causation but sufficient reason. Leibniz argued that there must be a sufficient reason for why there is something rather than nothing. I will now expound on and defend each argument.

Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
The Leibnizian Cosmological argument is traditionally formulated as follows:
1. Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation for its existence. (from 1, 3)
5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (from 2, 4)

Now, on the face of it, it doesn’t really sound like a good argument, does it? And you would be forgiven for thinking that, if you stopped there. This is where the supporting argumentation comes in and one of the reasons why I it is important that people NOT just attack the premises without bothering to address the supporting argumentation. Now, the controversial premise is the second one, as, on its face, it assumes which it sets out to prove. However, once we discuss this premise in depth, the apparent fallacy disappears. The first premise states that something has an explanation of its own existence either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. Given that the universe contains all of physical reality, the only type of thing that can exist outside of the universe is something that is non-physical, such as abstract things, like numbers, or immaterial things, such as minds. However, abstract things, like numbers, do not cause anything, and so the only plausible external cause is an immaterial mind, or spirit, or whatever you want to call it. This then leads us to the question, what is the reason for the universe’s existence? The only logical position open to atheists is to claim that the universe’s reason for existence is rooted in the necessity of its own nature. However, this clearly is not the case as the universe is not necessary, but contingent. Some however, attack the first premise, and claim that the universe just exists inexplicably. Yet, this is not a satisfactory answer, as nothing just exists inexplicably. The reason for the existence of a horse is that, previously, two horses bred and produced that horse. The claim that it just exists inexplicably would just be bizarre. Therefore, the only conclusion we can draw is that the reason for the existence of the universe is grounded in an external cause, and the only possible external cause is an immaterial mind. I personally think there is a better way to frame the argument and, if I may be bold, I would instead phrase the argument as:
1. Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.
2. The universe exists.
3. Therefore, the universe has an explanation for its existence.
4. The explanation for the existence of the universe lies in an external ground.
5. As the universe contains all of physical reality, the only possible things that can exist outside of physical reality are abstract things or immaterial things.
6. Abstract things have no causal relation to anything, leave only immaterial things.
7. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is an immaterial mind/spirit/being/thing, which we call God.

The traditional formation is, logically, identical but saves time by condensing a series of points into one simple premise. The problem is that stupid people will just, rather than attempt any form of rational or informed response sit back and go: “Premise 2 is a bold assertion, therefore the argument is invalid” which only works if you totally ignore pretty much everything that has been said. Now, some may complain, but we do not know that this immaterial thing is God, we do not even know if it is a personal being or an impersonal force. Which, is so far true, but we will be looking at the nature of this immaterial thing later on, so hold your horses.

Thomistic Cosmological Argument
We shall now take a look at the Thomistic Cosmological Argument, contained in Thomas Aquinas’ first three of his Five Ways.

First Way
1. We observe in the world things that are in motion.
2. Anything that is in motion is being moved by something else.
3. Something that has the potential to move cannot actualise its own potential; something else must cause it to move.
4. This thing in turn is also being moved by something else, and so on.
5. This series of things being moved by other things cannot go on to infinity.
6. Therefore there exists an Unmoved Mover, the First Cause of all motion, which we call God

One important thing to note is that here, Aquinas is not thinking of a successive series, but a simultaneous series. So, rather than imagining a series of dominoes falling one by one, Aquinas is thinking of a series like the gears of an engine. If you were to take away the first cause from an engine, then all you would be left with would be a series of useless and inactive instrumental causes. It would therefore not matter if you had an infinity of such causes, as they are inactive and inert by themselves. Imagine an internal combustion engine. If you were to remove a vital part of the engine, such as the spark plug, then it would never work even if you had an infinite number of every other part. There is a first cause in any causal series. In the case of the engine, the only way for it to be started is for a person to initiate the ignition.

Another important thing to note is the special sense in which Aquinas means the word “motion.” Aquinas is thinking not just of physical motion, but also of a specific metaphysical kind of motion. The moving of a thing from potentiality to actuality. Actuality simply means, what already is, whereas potentiality refers to a possible state or state of affairs into which a thing or object can change to. Something cannot potentially be and actually be the same thing at the same time. Something that is actually hot cannot be potentially hot, as it is already hot. It has the potential to become hotter, but this would be a change of degree, not of kind. The moving from potentiality to actuality always comes from an external agent. For instance, a stick, whilst having the potential to become hot, cannot make itself actually hot. It would need to be heated by an external agent.

In self-moving things, such as humans, this first cause would be the soul or mind. We can make a stick hot by placing it in fire. Given that there cannot be an infinite chain of movers/movees, there is therefore an Unmoved Mover, that is, itself, unmoved, which set everything else into motion.

Second Way
1. We observe that causes are ordered in series.
2. Nothing can be self-caused, as that would be impossible.
3. Everything that is caused is therefore caused by something else.
4. This thing was itself caused by another thing, and so on.
5. This series of things being caused cannot go on into infinity.
6. Therefore there exists an Uncaused First Cause, which we call God.

Now, stupid people may claim that this is the same as the First Way, but it is evidently not in that the first way is based on the cause of change from potentiality to actuality, whereas the second way is based on the cause of something else’s coming into being. This argument is also different from the Kalam cosmological argument, in that The Second Way is referring to the simultaneous kind of series referred to in the First Way, rather than the successive series referred to by Kalam.

There are six different kinds of causes:
1. The Material Cause: the matter something is made from, i.e. my desk is made from wood.
2. The Formal Cause: the form something possesses. The idea of a thing. My desk possesses the form of a desk.
3. The Efficient Cause: the cause that makes the thing the thing it is. The carpenter who made my desk.
4. The Final Cause: why the thing is the way it is. My desk is made for me to rest things on whilst I sit down.
5. The Instrumental Cause: how a thing comes to be. My desk came to be because a carpenter went to work on a block of wood.
6. The Exemplar Cause: that after which something comes to be. My desk was based on a set of design documents/blueprints that the carpenter was working from.

When we speak of causes, most people tend to think of material causes, however, the Second Way is an argument based on efficient causes and deals with the existence/essence distinction. All composed things have a cause of their being. For each thing that we see, it has a nature. When you imagine an image of an object in your mind, you have in mind the form of whatever it is. The difference between the image in your mind and the actual object in real life is that the image in your mind exists only in your mind, whereas the actual object exists in the real world. In other words, the image possesses only form, whereas the thing in real life possesses being in addition to form. The thing therefore requires to be bought into being. Its form requires being. In order for this occur, there needs to be something external to bring it into being. Note that this says nothing about the temporality of a thing, for a thing could still be eternal but require its form to be given being. There therefore exists an uncaused cause whose being is its nature.

The Third Way
1. We see in the world contingent things. That is to say things whose existence are not necessary, but only possible.
2. If everything were contingent, then at some point everything would cease to exist.
3. If at one time there was nothing in existence, then it would have been impossible for anything at all to exist and nothing now would exist at all, given that things that begin to exist require something already in existence to bring it into being.
4. However, this is absurd, as we clearly exist. Therefore, not everything that exists is contingent and so there must exist something that is necessary.
5. There cannot be an infinite chain of necessary things each having its necessity bestowed upon it by something else.
6. There therefore exists a necessary being that does not receive its necessity from something else, but rather causing in other things their necessity, which we call God.

Things in the universe are contingent, in other words they could have been otherwise. One could suggest that the universe is necessary, thus eliminating the need for God, however that would make everything within the universe necessary too. One could also suggest that the universe just exists inexplicably but this is also unsatisfactory for reasons explained in my section on the Leibnizian Cosmological argument. The universe is contingent, as it could have been different. It is possible for everything within the universe not to be. It was possible for there to be nothing. If something is contingent, then it began to exist because of something outside of itself. If something is necessary, it either received its necessity from its own nature or from something else. There cannot be an infinite regress therefore there must be a necessary being which receives its necessity from its own nature.

These three arguments combine together into an overall Cosmological Argument that demonstrates the existence of an uncaused, unmoving necessary ground of existence that causes everything and puts everything into motion.

TheAmazingAtheist vs. Thomas Aquinas: The First Three Ways
I shall now be addressing TheAmazingAtheist’s video “Thomas Aquinas sucks”, however, I shall only be addressing his arguments against the first three ways. I shall reserve responses to his arguments against the fourth and fifth ways for when I get round to addressing the arguments espoused by those two ways. Of course, when I say his arguments against Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, I should really say: TheAmazingAtheist “has a bash at” because it is like what it would probably be like to hear Peter Andre read Pride and Prejudice for an audio book recording: “Mr. Darcy, I see you are a man of impeccable… what the heck is going on here? He hasn’t even mentioned her tits yet.” TAAs position is so bad that you can’t even call it wrong as that would be granting his “arguments” some sort of coherence and substance that TAAs arguments just don’t have. Before we get started I would just like to comment how TAA claims to be smarter than Thomas Aquinas, by a significant amount. In fact, in the description box, he claims that: Thomas Aquinas was as dumb as dirt.” Thomas Aquinas wrote roughly 80 or so books in his lifetime, and knew the works of Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, he knew Scripture, he knew the works of the early Church Fathers and interacted with the Islamic scholars and theologians of his day. I wonder, can TAA boast these things? Let us begin, shall we?

Regarding the first way, TAA argues against the premise that there cannot be an infinite regress. His only response is: “How does he know? We are still trying to understand it today?” Of course, this is no objection at all, and is simply evidence that TAA does not understand the argument he is addressing. For one thing, he does not even mention the kind of motion that Aquinas is referring to, which I have covered. More importantly, he does not even describe the kind of infinite regress to which Aquinas is referring. There are actually two different kinds of infinite regresses. One kind is a per accidens chain. We exist because of our parents, but if our parents were to die, then we would not cease to exist or cease to function. This is a per accidens chain. The other kind of infinite regress, which is the one Aquinas has in mind is a per se chain. Consider a rock next to a leaf. A stick moves the rock, a hand moves the stick. Because of this movement, the rock moves the leaf. In this chain, the movement is dependant on the hand moving the stick. Remove the hand and then all you are left with is a series of inactive causes. This is basic Thomist philosophy that one would need to be familiar with in order to successfully address Thomas Aquinas’ works. That TAA is ignorant is a massive indictment of his laziness and stupidity.

TAA next objection is that the positing of an unmoved mover contradicts the premise that things that are put into motion are put into motion by something else. This is a typical atheist objection that, as usual, completely fails to take into account the exact nuances of the argument they are addressing. When Aquinas refers to motion he is talking about the change from potentiality to actuality. The Unmoved Mover is not put into motion, as it lacks potentiality and is pure actuality. There is no contradiction as Aquinas is referring to change from potentiality to actuality. It is kind of like when atheists addressing the Kalam cosmological argument say that the first premise is everything that exists needs c cause, when no Christian alive defends such a premise. The actual premise is: everything that begins to exist needs a cause. TAAs objection makes the same kind of error. TAA also refers to an infinite chain again; again not understanding the kind of chain Aquinas is referring to. God does not need to be the first cause chronologically, as Aquinas believed it was possible that the past could be infinite and without beginning.

TAA refers to Aquinas as: “some moron living in the 13th century with no concept of modern science.” Even though science can tell us nothing here, as Aquinas’ argument is a metaphysical one. TAA is simply some moron living in the 21st century with no concept of philosophy, modern or otherwise. Presumably TAA subscribes to the belief that Science can tell us everything, even in fields where Science can tell us nothing. I wonder, did he use Science to come to that belief? Did he test the scientific method using science? Did he test the logical and mathematical truths which science is based upon with science? What about aesthetical and ethical truths? Of course, I would like to see how modern science is even capable of proving that an infinite per accidens chain is possible, let alone an infinite per se chain. Of course, TAA is too ignorant, and presumably too stupid, to even tell the difference between these two types of chains and makes no real argument for why we should believe that an infinite regress of either type is possible.

Lastly, TAA argues that even if we accept every premise, why does the Unmoved Mover have to be God? TAA claims that it could have been a blueberry muffin… and I thought that the Flying Spaghetti Monster was bad. First of all, a blueberry muffin is a material object and that which has a material component always has potential to its being. At least the Flying Spaghetti Monster is an agent that can move of its own volition, whereas a blueberry muffin is an inanimate object. The FSM is not a valid answer either, but it is at least more plausible than TAAs proposition. Inanimate objects are purely dependant on an external source for their movement. TAA claims that a Blueberry Muffin is more a plausible option than God, because he has at least seen a Blueberry Muffin. Oh really? TAA has seen a Blueberry Muffin capable of creating a universe and that is capable of actualising potential, as well as possessing pure actuality? His objection that he has not seen God is laughably absurd. God is immaterial so of course we can’t see Him physically. We can see God in the same way that we can see 2+2=4, however. TAA is simply an idiot, who does not understand the first thing about the argument he is attempting to address.

Let us see how TheAmazingAtheist deals with the Second Way. TAA simply says: “That argument is exactly the same as your motion argument. I’m not refuting the same argument twice.” Refuting it once would have been nice. Of course, to anybody with an ounce of brains, it is obvious that the First and Second Ways are two different arguments. The First Way is an argument from the cause of change from potentiality to actuality, whereas the Second Way is an argument from efficient causality of existence. Existence and motion are two different things. Whilst giving being to form could be classified as giving actuality to potentiality, at best that would make it a special subset of motion. That TAA is apparently too dumb to notice speaks volumes. Remember that TAA claimed to be smarter than Thomas Aquinas, and that he claimed that Aquinas was: “as dumb as dirt.”

Let us now move to the Third Way. TheAmazingAtheist’s argument is that everything is contingent upon the universe. That as long as we have the universe, everything else can pop in and out of existence. In other words, he believes that the universe is necessary, whilst everything else is contingent. Of course, matter is pure potentiality, not pure actuality. The second thing is that the universe is not necessary. The existence of everything within the universe is contingent upon the universe existing, but the universe is itself contingent. Of course, TAA raises the whole: “Why can’t it be a simple particle? Why must it be a complex?” dum-dum argument that Richard Dawkins uses in The God Delusion. The problem being, God is not complex at all. This obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence. God is not composed of any material parts, and so is thus simpler than a “simple particle.” There is also the fact that matter is pure potential and requires the universe to already be in existence to exist, but of course, being the “intellectual” that he is, TAA is simply unaware of these inconsistencies in his “arguments.” And there we have it, TheAmazingAtheist’s so-called refutation of the first three of Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways. As we can see, he didn’t even so much as make a dent in them. We will be coming back to our loveable sugar puffs monster look-a-like, however, and deal with his “critique” of Aquinas’ Fourth and Fifth ways. The Fourth Way being a form of Ontological argument and the Fifth Way being a form of the Teleological argument.

Kalam Cosmological Argument
We shall now look at the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This argument, despite being the simplest Cosmological Argument, and probably one of the simplest arguments for the existence of God as a whole, atheists frequently misrepresent or misunderstand. This is evident in the fact that a large number are seemingly unaware of the actual premises, which is odd, given the arguments simplicity. The premises of the argument can be summarised as follows:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Supporting argumentation is then usually given as to why this cause is God. First, we shall look at the premises. It is not uncommon to find opponents of Kalam to cite it as: “Everything has a cause” and then proceed to ask: “What caused God?” which is just plain wrong and requires a fundamental misunderstanding of the argument. No Christian would ever make such a pronouncement, unless by “cause” they meant “sufficient reason”, which would simply be an equivocation of terms. Thus, the correct premise should be everything that begins to exist requires a cause. This premise, on its face, seems obviously true as to suggest that things just pop into being out of nothing uncaused would be absurd. It would also raise the question, why doesn’t just anything pop into being uncaused out of nothing? Some suggest that the universe is “self-caused.” However, this assertion is even more absurd than the previous one. Something that does not exist cannot affect anything, as it does not exist. In order for the universe to cause itself to come into being, it would first have to exist in order to do so, which is evidently absurd and contradictory.

Most people who question the first premise typically cite events on the sub-atomic level as an exception to the first premise. The prime example being how virtual particles spontaneously pop in and out of existence “from nothing.” Of course, to suggest that this is so requires a large amount of ignorance, or outright dishonesty. For one thing, events on the QM level aren’t necessarily indeterministic. There are, actually, in-fact, numerous interpretations, some being indeterministic, but there are others that are not, and there is no large consensus about which one is correct. The main reason why some think that events on the QM level are non-deterministic is due to the uncertainty principle, which simply states that it is impossible to know more than one attribute about a Quantum particle with a great degree of accuracy simultaneously, as knowledge of one attribute makes knowledge of another more uncertain. Far from making events non-deterministic, it just renders them, as of yet, unknowable. We can only guess probabilities. To say that therefore Quantum particles are therefore non-deterministic is to ho beyond what the evidence demonstrates, as we simply do not know. Although, one interesting thing is how new developments in Quantum Physics mean that is now possible to determine with a greater degree of accuracy the attributes of Quantum particles through Quantum Entanglement. There is still a level of uncertainty involved there is just now less of it, although this only applies to entangled particles.

The second issue with the virtual particle example is that virtual particles do NOT come into existence out of nothing. The sub-atomic vacuum is as far from nothing as everything else, as it is, in fact, a sea of fluctuating energy. Every so often, a fluctuation will occur that will cause a virtual particle to briefly come into existence. The reason why it pops back out of existence is because these particles are created in matter/anti-matter pairs, and promptly annihilate each other. Some attempt to argue that because this happens randomly, this somehow means that the universe could have came into existence randomly, which would undercut the notion of a deliberate act of creation by a personal being. Of course, this is simply equivocation. The act of a personal being can be completely determined in advance by the personal being, yet would still be non-deterministic as the choices of a personal being are not beholden to the laws of physics and inaccessible to the scientific method. Thus to say that events on them QM level are an exception to the first premise is simply not true. There just is no good reason to believe that anything can come into being from non-being uncaused, and so the first premise is therefore more plausible true than its negation.

The second premise has likewise been attacked. Now, there are two main philosophical arguments that are made in favour of this premise. The first is that it is impossible for an actually infinite numbers of things to exist and the second is that it is impossible to form an actual infinite collection of things by successive addition.
1. An actually infinite number of things cannot exist.
2. A beginningless series of events in time entails an actually infinite number of things.
3. Therefore, a beginningless series of events in time cannot exist.

The second argument:
1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
2. The series of events in time is a collection formed by successive addition.
3. Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite.

Whilst the first premises of both arguments can be taken for granted, the main issue I think comes with the second premises. The subject of time and eternity is incredibly complex, and would deserve a separate discussion  in its own right. For now, I will simply present my own version of these two arguments, which I feel are simpler, less controversial and thus easier to understand.

Argument One:
1. An actually infinite number of things cannot exist.
2. A beginningless series of causes is an actually infinite number of things.
3. Therefore, a beginningless series of causes cannot exist.

Argument Two:
1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
2. A series of causes is a collection formed by successive addition.
3. Therefore, a series of causes cannot be actually infinite.

This, I think, is more reasonable, as it makes fewer assumptions about time. An infinite causal chain implies an infinite number of things, and doesn’t need to go into A-theory and B-theory of time and all that. As an aside, once I have read up sufficiently on the subject, I will probably do a series on the nature of time in relation to God, and so we shall see if the original two arguments can be validated there. Note that the type of series referred to here is of the per accidens variety, not the per se kind referred to by Aquinas. Of course, if the previous two arguments DO turn out to be valid, then we would thus have four philosophical arguments for why the universe began to exist.

For those who, somehow, thinking an actual infinite number of things can exist, then there are a number of arguments that can be made against such a position. One such thought experiment is Hilbert’s Hotel. Imagine a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, all of which are occupied. Despite being full, if a new guest were to arrive, then the hotel owner can simply shift the guest in room 1 into room 2 and the guest in room 2 to room 3 and so on, ad infinitum so that the new guest can be accommodated. This would even be the case if an infinite number of new guests were to arrive. Thus despite always being full, there would always be room for new guests, should they arrive. The sign would read, no vacancies, but new guests are welcome, which is absurd. There are other counter-intuitive paradoxes, but for now, this will do. However, my problem is that there is no inherent logical contradiction, only a counter-intuitive factor that is simply hard to conceptualise and understand.

Of course, the two new arguments don’t necessarily preclude the universe beginning to exist, although the same Thomist objections could be made. The only way the original arguments could be considered sound and valid would be if time can be said to be composed of events, and events can be said to be concrete, discernible, discreet things. This would also bring up the issue of divine eternality, and notions of atemporality, and timeless and how this would factor in. Of course, I admit a per accidens chain might be possible, however counter-intuitive it might seem, however a per se chain remains finite. I think the main two arguments in favour of the second premise come not from philosophy, but science. We shall have to come back to these philosophical arguments later, once we analyse the nature of time and eternity. Note that if an infinite per accidens chain is possible, then this in no way shows that an infinite per se chain is possible.

We will now be looking at two scientific arguments in favour of the second premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument: the universe began to exist. The argument we will look at first is the argument from the expansion of the universe. Prior to the 1920s, it was assumed that the universe was eternal and static. Back in 1917, Albert Einstein developed his General Theory of Relativity, which was then taken and developed by Alexander Friedman and Georges Lemaitre in the 1920s and provided solutions to Einstein’s equations that predicted an expanding universe. The universe was NOT a static, timelessly existing entity, but rather, has a history. Confirmation of this predication came in 1929, when Edwin Hubble discovered that the light from distant galaxies systematically shifts to the red end of the spectrum. This is known as red shift, and is a form of Doppler effect that indicates lights sources are receding from the line of sight. This led to the development of the big bang model, which is now the standard model that is used to describe the history of the universe.

Using the standard big bang model, we can determine that, as time goes on, the distance between galaxies will increase. Similarly, we can determine that if we were to go backwards in time, the distances between galaxies would decrease as well. Furthermore, it does not predict the expansion of the material content of the universe into pre-existing space, but the expansion of space itself too. We can therefore extrapolate backwards in time until we reach a cosmological singularity, a boundary to space and time itself. This model therefore demonstrates that the universe is not eternal but came into being a finite time ago. The big bang model, whilst taken for granted now, was not always the most widely accepted model. After its inception, a variety of alternate models were proposed that, whilst corresponding to the evidence from red shift, etc., would avoid the conclusion that the universe is not eternal.

One alternative was the Steady State model, put forward in 1948. Like the standard model, the universe is expanding, however, as the galaxies recede, new matter is created in the empty void and the matter and energy at the farthest edges of the universe simply disappear. Thus, in the steady state model, the universe, whilst expanding, is not increasing in density as it is constantly renewing itself. This model never secured any experimental verification and was instead decisively refuted by two more major discoveries that support the standard big bang model. The first was the primordial nucleosynthesis of the light elements. Stars synthesise heavy elements, yet this stellar nucleosynthesis is incapable of producing the abundant light elements within the universe, such as helium and deuterium. These lighter elements could only have been produced in extreme conditions, say those present in the first moment of the big bang. The second was the cosmic background microwave radiation discovered in 1965, which is evidence of a hot dense phase of the universe.

Another alternative during the 60s, was the Oscillating Model, whereby it is proposed that the internal gravitational pull of the universe is such that it can overcome expansion and reverse into a Big Crunch. Furthermore, if it is assumed that the universe is not evenly distributed then, during this cosmic contraction, then the universe might avoid coalescing into a singular point allowing quantities of matter to pass each other by and start a new expansion phase. If this were repeated indefinitely, then this would mean that there would be no absolute beginning of the universe. Of course, in 1970, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose formulated their singularity theorems, which show that under very generalised conditions, even in an inhomogeneous universe like the oscillating model assumes, a singularity is inevitable. If that were not enough, red shift evidence from the most distant supernovae reveal that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating. Furthermore, there is just no known physical mechanism that would allow for a collapsing universe to “bounce back.” Current cosmology states that the universe will just keep expanding forever until the universe is subject to what is known as a Big Freeze, or heat death.

Now, as aforementioned, we talked about quantum fluctuations, which is where virtual particles emerge from the quantum vacuum and quickly dissolve again. Also, as aforementioned, the big bang model is based upon Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In order to successfully describe the universe prior to the Planck time (10-43 seconds after the Big Bang singularity) we would need to factor in quantum physics. In 1973, Edward Tryon suggested that the universe might, in fact, have emerged from a primordial vacuum due to a long-lived virtual particle, much in the same way virtual particles in our universe emerge from the underlying quantum vacuum before dissolving back into it. This model also makes use of what is known as inflation, which is small change to the standard model that attempts to explain the large-scale smoothness of the universe by suggesting that between 10-35 and 10-33 after the singularity, the universe underwent super-rapid inflationary expansion and so the inhomogeneous features of out universe were pushed beyond our event horizon. Now, in this vacuum fluctuation model, prior to this inflationary era, the universe was a vacuum of empty space that exists eternally in a steady state. In this primordial vacuum, the aforementioned quantum fluctuations are constantly occurring, and, every so often, material universes, like ours, are born and this is when inflation kicks in and all that. Of course, there were theoretical problems with this model, such as the production mechanisms of matter, but the main problem is that, given an infinite past time, universes would have spawned at every point in the vacuum by now, and, as they expand, they will collide with each other and coalesce. Furthermore, we should be observing an infinitely old universe, as opposed to a relatively young one. One solution is to suggest that the primordial vacuum is also expanding, but then we are left with the same problem of an absolute beginning that this model was constructed to avoid.

Of course, there are other inflationary models, such as the chaotic inflationary model proposed by Andrei Linde. In this model, inflation never ends, but rather, once an inflating region of the universe has reached a certain volume, it gives rise to another domain and so on. Whilst this model has an infinite future, but this is some question over whether or not it can be beginningless as well. However, in 1994, Arvine Borde and Alexander Vilenkin showed that an eternally inflating space-time must possess an initial singularity, which even Andrei Linde conceded was correct. This was further strengthened in 2003 with the theorem they devised with Alan Guth, which was independent of certain assumptions that their earlier work had made. Now, as aforementioned, in order to look at the era of the universe prior to the Plank time, we would need to factor in quantum physics, and this leads to the next model, the quantum gravity model, proposed by Alexander Vilenkin and also by James Hartle and Stephen Hawking. Now, with the standard big bang model, the universe can be represented as a cone, with the point of the cone representing the singularity. In these quantum gravity models, they introduce imaginary numbers in order to describe prior to the Planck time. Thus, rather than representing space-time as a typical cone with a point, space-time in this model can be represented as a cone with a smooth rounded tip. In other words, there is no longer a singularity.

However, by positing a finite albeit imaginary time on a closed surface prior to Plank time, as opposed to an infinite time on an open surface, this model actually undercuts a beginningless universe and ends up supporting a universe with a beginning. The only difference is, there is no definite beginning point, but there is still a beginning. Of course, all this is irrelevant given that when we re-convert the imaginary numbers into real time, then the singularity re-appears. We thus finally come to string scenarios, that is, models based on string theory. String theory proposes that instead of quarks, the fundamental building blocks of matter are instead tiny one-dimensional vibrating strings of energy. Hence the name “string theory.” Despite being incredibly early on in its development, so much so that it its equations have not even been formulated, much less solved, some have attempted to build models based off of string theory. The first of these is the pre-big bang scenario, with the second being the cyclic ekpyrotic scenario. The pre-big bang scenario is a lot like the oscillating model, in that the big bang is a transitional event between a prior contraction phase and our current expansion phase. The difference between this and the oscillating model is that prior contraction is said to take place within a wider, static universe. The material content of various regions in space collapse into a black hole and later rebounds in an expansion phase. Our universe is but one of many collapsing and rebounding regions.

Despite being plagued with a ton of problems, this model suffers from the same problem facing the vacuum fluctuation model in that it posits an eternal, static universe within which our universe was spawned a finite time ago and so runs into the same problems. Furthermore, all the pre-big bang black holes would have coalesced into one colossal black hole co-extensive with the universe. What is more, given infinite past time, then the wider universe as a whole should have reached a state of thermodynamic equilibrium by now. The second scenario is the more celebrated of the string scenarios. In this scenario, our three-dimensional universe are contained within a brane. This brane exists within a five-dimensional space-time, along with another three-dimensional brane. These two branes approach each other, collide and rebound over and over again. Our universe’s expansion is caused by these collisions, and the expansion is renewed with each collision. Besides from its highly speculative nature, this scenario is likewise plagued with problems. Yet, as with the chaotic inflationary model, this model suffers from the fact that an expanding universe cannot be past eternal.

This collection of cosmological models is littered with failures, full of wildly improbable and highly speculative models riddled with errors and problems. The sole exception is the standard big bang model, which alone states there is an absolute beginning. It seems obvious then, that these alternate models are being explored for purely metaphysical reasons and not for scientific reasons. In a way, it serves as a kind of backhanded compliment to show what lengths people are willing to go to just in order to avoid the reality of an absolute beginning of the universe. Time after time, some various model is held up as the ultimate ground breaking theory that is going to supersede the big bang model as the standard cosmological model that represents the history and development of the universe and time after time said model is falsified. The standard big bang model thus remains the only sure tried and tested model, its prediction of an absolute beginning being constantly verified. Not that this matters of course. I strongly doubt that those seeking to avert the conclusion that the universe had an absolute beginning will halt their fruitless campaign. I am sure that in a few years time we will be hearing of yet another whacky model some hopeful academic has their research funds riding on.

And there we have it. We have surveyed an array of alternatives to the standard big bang model, and all of them fail pretty spectacularly. The conclusion, that the universe began to exist, thus remains firm and secure. We shall now be looking at the second scientific argument, the argument from the thermodynamic properties of the universe. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the laws of thermodynamics, the second law of thermodynamics states that any closed system will tend towards equilibrium. Unless a system is constantly being fed energy, then said system will eventually run down and cease to function. If the universe is entirely self-contained, then the universe will eventually reach a state of equilibrium and suffer the aforementioned “heat death” that I mentioned. There are thus two possible scenarios, a Big Crunch, whereby the universe’s internal gravitational pull overcomes its acceleration and causes it to implode back in on itself, from which the universe shall never re-emerge. The second is a Big Rip, or Tear or Freeze, whereby the universe carries on expanding until eventually all the stars will die, and all the black holes will have dissipated into radiation and elementary particles. If the universe had an infinite past, then this would raise the pertinent question, why has the universe not already reached such an end state already?

Now, in relation to the Oscillating Model mentioned, the second law of thermodynamics means that such an eternally oscillating universe is impossible, as the level of entropy increase with each oscillation. Meaning that the universe can haven not gone through more than 100 previous oscillations. Furthermore, with each oscillation, each expansion and contractions phase takes longer than in the previous oscillation, meaning each previous oscillation phase was smaller and shorter than the following phase. Thus, if we extrapolate backwards in time, we still arrive at an absolute beginning point as in the standard big bang model. Therefore, appealing to the oscillating model in order to avoid an absolute beginning is in vain. Some have suggested, however, that our universe is actually a “baby universe.” It has been proposed that black holes actually operate as portals. That the matter they suck up travels through wormholes and tunnel into independently existing regions of space-time, thereby creating new universes. Our universe is one such universe. However, this is purely dependent on whether or not the matter black holes suck up are locked away forever or not. It turns out, though, that this is not the case, as the information that black holes take in is let back out in the form of radiation, and, as such, remains firmly within this universe.

One proposed explanation for why we find ourselves in a universe that has not yet been subjected to heat death was put forward by Ludwig Boltzmann in the 19th century. His hypothesis was that the universe IS already in a state of equilibrium, but that there exists isolated regions of space that exist in states of disequilibrium that pop up over time. We should not be surprised that we find ourselves in a highly improbable state of disequilibrium, because, given that throughout the ensemble of possible “worlds” (as Boltzmann referred to them), there must exist by chance certain worlds in a state of disequilibrium, as ours just happens to be. Of course, the main problem with this idea is that is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much smaller region of disequilibrium than the current observable universe. It is even more probably that we should be observing a universe that was produced instantaneously rather than one that slowly developed though billions of years of entropy. In fact, it is even more probable that we DO exist in such a universe and that the past is merely illusory. Thus, Boltzmann’s hypothesis is vastly improbable, and has since been discarded.

However, attempts have been made to revive a more modern version of this hypothesis using inflationary theory. There is a kind of inflationary multiverse model, whereby our universe exists within a bubble of “true vacuum”, and that these bubbles of true vacuum are located within a sea of “false vacuum.” These bubbles emerge from this sea, and expand. However, the sea of energy that they are located in is expanding faster than the bubbles are, so that they become more separated with time. Furthermore, each bubble contains domains bounded by event horizons, each domain being an observable “universe” or “Hubble volume.” Thus, observers will see an open, infinite universe, when the bubble of vacuum is actually finite and geometrically closed. Of course, despite being finite and closed, the multiverse will somehow go on expanding forever, producing more expanding bubbles of true vacuum as time goes on. The conclusion is the same as Boltzmann’s. Namely, that out of the infinity of worlds generated by inflation, there will be some worlds that are in a state of thermodynamic disequilibrium. It is also added that only such worlds can contain observers, and so it is therefore not surprising to find ourselves in such a world.

Of course, this hypothesis is equally riddled with problems and suffers from many of the same problems. In such a multiverse, high entropy disordered states incapable of producing observers will be pre-dominate, leaving only two possible states for which an observable universe can exist as. Either by being a young, low-entropy universe or being part of a thermal fluctuation in a high entropy world. The objection once again rises that it is overwhelmingly more probable that a much smaller region have arisen than one as large as our observable universe. The odds of a universe such as ours (a young, low entropy world) coming into existence in such a way is 10^10(^123), a probability so infinitesimally small that it is actually more probably that, providing such an ensemble of world actually exists, that our universe is small, and the apparent size of the universe we see is really an illusion. In fact, it is overwhelmingly more probable that only a single observer exists as a brain in a vat, and that the entire external world is illusory. Such a conclusion is evidently absurd, and the best explanation for why we are observing a young, low-entropy universe is because it had an absolute beginning. The evidence for the beginning of the universe from the thermodynamic properties of the universe is even more compelling than the evidence from expansion. Whilst there are those who churn out unconfirmed speculative hypothesis after unconfirmed speculative hypothesis in some hope of circumventing the conclusion of an absolute beginning predicted by the standard big bang model, the laws of thermodynamics are not something to be rubbished away. The field of thermodynamics is so well understood and its laws so firmly established that to argue against it would be to open oneself up to ridicule from the scientific community.

We have therefore reviewed so far, two philosophical arguments and two scientific arguments for why the universe began to exist. To review, an actually infinite number of things cannot exist, an actually infinite number things cannot be formed by successive addition, the universe is expanding from a singular state and the second law of thermodynamics implies a beginning of the universe. It still baffles me that there are people who actually attempt to argue against these two premises. The first, that things that begin to exist require a cause, is self-evident and the second, that the universe began to exist, is one of the most greatly attested scientific facts. It is this evident then that people who argue against the premises of Kalam are not motivated by any genuine desire to seek truth but are motivated purely by their naturalistic worldview. The conclusion, that the universe had a cause, is inevitable and unavoidable. The question is: what is that cause? We shall be discussing precisely that in my next section, which should wrap up my section on Cosmological Arguments.

We have taken a look at the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument, the three Thomistic Cosmological Arguments and lastly the Kalam Cosmological Argument. We shall now be taking a look at the nature of the first cause, the existence of which these arguments seek to prove. What caused the universe? Luckily there are clues available to help us in our quest. As the cause of space and time, such a cause must transcend both. Thus making such a cause immaterial and timeless. Such a cause must be beginningless and without a cause, as an infinite regress is impossible and only things that begin to exist require a cause. Ockham’s razor states that we must not multiply causes needlessly, and so there cannot be multiple causes. Such a cause must also be incredibly powerful in order to be able to bring the universe into existence. The final criteria is that this cause must be a personal being, and there are at least three good reasons to think why this is the case. 
Firstly, there are only two types of explanation, personal causes, which refer to the choices of personal choices, and scientific explanations, which refer to the workings of unconscious, material, natural phenomenon. Since there was neither space nor time prior to the beginning of the universe, there cannot be a scientific explanation of the universe by definition. Thus, the only remaining option is a personal explanation. Secondly, there are two types of immaterial thing. Abstract objects, like numbers, or minds. Since abstract objects cannot cause anything, the only option left to us is a mind. Lastly, unconscious things cannot cause anything by themselves. They need to be caused by something else. Thus, a personal being that freely chooses to bring its effect into being is the only remaining option.

We find that such characteristics are regularly used to describe the being that most refer to as God. Now, Atheists are free to interject with arguments against inferring God as the cause of the universe, yet they tend to primarily focus on parading around with these Jackanory objections to confirmed objective facts about reality. Thus, objections to the conclusion are lacking. Indeed, the only suggestion so far, apart from to deny the beginning of the universe, which is simply untenable, has been to claim the universe caused itself, which is patently absurd. Luckily for atheists, there are other objections that they could raise that are infinitely more reasonable. I shall quickly review these objections and address them.

Objection 1
1. When we say everything has a cause, we use the word cause to mean something that transforms previously existing materials from one state to another.
2. However, when the argument infers that the universe has a cause, it means something that creates its effect out of nothing.
3. Therefore, the argument commits the fallacy of equivocation and is thus invalid.

Objection 2
1. It does not follow from necessity of there being a cause of the universe that this cause must be a conscious agent.
2. It is logically fallacious to infer that there is a single conscious agent who created the universe.
3. Therefore, assuming the cause to be a single personal agent is incorrect.

Objection 3
1. Causality is logically compatible with an infinite, beginningless series of events.
2. If everything has a cause of its existence, then the cause of the universe must also have a cause for its existence.
3. Therefore, an infinite regress is not impossible, and an appeal to an uncased first cause is thus unwarranted and special pleading.

Objection 4
1. If creation out of nothing is incomprehensible, then it is irrational to believe in such a doctrine.
2. An incomprehensible doctrine thus cannot explain anything.
3. Therefore, appealing to God as the cause of the universe does not explain anything.

Of course, despite being more reasonable than the tripe brought against the two premises, all of these objections are built on misunderstandings. With the first objection, the sense that the word cause is used in the Kalam argument is something that produces or brings about an effect. Whether this production involves transforming existing material or creation ex nihilo, it does not matter as there is still a causal agent present. We are not arguing against creation ex nihilo by creation ex nihilo uncaused, that is, with no casual agent present. Thus, the charge of equivocation is false. It is actually this objection that commits the fallacy of equivocation, as there are different types of causes, as I outlined in my section on the Thomistic Cosmological Argument. As for the second objection, whilst the personhood of the cause is not proven logically by the two premises, it is instead gleaned from a conceptual analysis of what such a cause would be like. As we have seen, there are at least two good reasons for believing the cause is personal, with more that I could think of. Secondly, the charge that is fallacious to infer that it is only one personal being is false, given the principle of Ockham’s Razor that states we must not needlessly invoke a plurality of causes beyond necessity. Thus the inference to a single cause is justified, given that only one cause is necessary to explain the effect in question.

Regarding the third objection, it is not the concept of causality that is incompatible with an infinite series of past events. Rather, it is a series of past of events being actually infinite that is incompatible. For example, something can exist in the same state for eternity, but it cannot go through an infinity of changes. Secondly, as with those who ask what caused God, this objection also misconstrues the first premise of the Kalam argument, Remember, it is whatever that begins to exist that requires a cause. It is not special pleading to say God is uncaused, as atheists have maintained the same about the universe and still do despite all the evidence to the contrary. The last objection makes a similar error to the first objection. Quite simply, Kalam is not arguing against creation ex nihilo. Rather, it is arguing against creation ex nihilo uncaused. We may not know how a cause could bring something into being out of nothing, but it is comprehensible, whereas to suggest that something could just pop into being out of nothing without any cause at all is incomprehensible and patently absurd.

We thus see that the conclusion that there is a cause of the universe, and that cause is God, to be the most rational and that there is just no good reason to believe otherwise. Furthermore, we do not just have Kalam, but an array of Cosmological Arguments. The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument, that there must be a sufficient reason for why we exist. The three Thomist Cosmological arguments, that there exists an unmoved mover, a first cause and absolutely necessary being, and the Kalam Cosmological argument, that the universe has a cause. The most reasonable identity of such a cause is God. Now, this does not automatically prove the existence of the Judeo-Christian God, but it does at least show that the existence of a monotheistic God to be necessary. Now, we could stop there, but there are other, powerful arguments that argue for the existence of God, that we shall be looking at. In my next blog we shall begin looking at Teleological arguments for the existence of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment