June 2009 Cosmological Argument Exam Questions

i. Examine the central ideas and strengths of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. [28]

ii. Comment on the effectiveness of the criticisms made against this argument. [12]



Central ideas include:

What the argument is actually stating – cause -> effect -> conclusion: must be a cause of everything -> state as premises and conclusion

Whose ideas are used in this argument? I.e. Aquinas’ first three ways and explain them

Other central ideas e.g. Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason …

And the idea that God is the only necessary being and why he is necessary this then includes rejection of infinite regress but also explanation of contingency vs necessity…

And why is there something rather than nothing?

Strengths include: (but examine means you also need to look at the flaws in those strengths.)

Logical – however – logic doesn’t make it the only reason

Experience – our experience is limited to this one planet… We see trees fall in gales, floods occur after heavy rain etc. things born then die

Why isn’t there nothing? We wouldn’t know any different! It just is!

This argument does explain that.

How else do we explain the features of the universe like regularity? – God is not the only explanation, and maybe it’s not as logical as it seems

This argument explains this



Other criticisms include:

The laws of nature are not rigid, we don’t know them all yet, we keep adapting the law to fit the evidence.

Rejection of infinite regress just because of our experience, doesn’t make it so.

Hume’s criticism that this argument is a ‘leap too far’ is like the teleological argument in that it draws a parallel from the specific to the general from the known (our world) to the unknown (the universe) is fair – we don’t know, to suggest God is the cause in place of our admission that we don’t know yet is to make him fill ‘the gaps’ in our knowledge.

The argument is undermined if we assert that everything needs a cause and, then, having posited God as the cause, say that God doesn’t need a cause!

Ultimately – faith can be strengthened, however atheists will remain unconvinced. Even Aquinas realised his arguments would not prove the existence of God.


NB Aquinas is regarded as the central proponent of this argument historically, but David Hume is regarded as having demolished it in the 18th Century. However in the 20th century Richard Swinburne has revisited the argument suggesting that though as one argument in the arsenal of theists it may have its weaknesses, added to the other arguments the combined case for the existence of God is made stronger. (Remember the cement analogy!!)


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