1 (a) Examine the key features of the cosmological argument for the existence of God.
The cosmological argument is the argument that for every effect there is a cause, thus the fact of the existence of the universe means that it must have been caused by something and religious cosmologists say that that thing is God.
Thomas Aquinas in his 5 ways stated 5 proofs for the existence of God and his second was ‘the
argument form an uncaused cause’.
Around the same time historically two muslin philosophers Al Kindi and Al Ghazali put forward the Kalam argument with runs like so:
- Everything that exists must have a cause for its existence.
- The universe exists.
- (Therefore) The universe must have a cause.
One of the assumptions underlying this argument is that infinite regress is impossible, i.e. there cannot be an infinite number of causes and effects and there must be an original cause.
The Kalam argument continues along these lines: an infinite number cannot exist, \there cannot be an infinite number of causes, \there are a finite number of causes,\there is a prime or first cause, \at some stage in the past one of two states was possible : that there should be or should not be a universe. It goes on to state as argued by Al Ghazali that when 2 states are equally possible the one which comes about must be willed by a personal agent ® God. This later become known as the argument from logical necessity, it isn’t logical that God cannot exist.
Aquinas’ argument is based on his observation that everything that moves is moved by something \there is an unmoved mover which is God (his 1st way).
More recently a philosopher called Copleston argued that God was a non-contingent being; very similar to the logical necessity view, things which exist now do so because of past events \the universe exists now because of a past event; the only logical explanation is that is was caused by an outside agent: this is a necessary being i.e. God but also the universe’s very existence is contingent upon the existence of God.
When refuting possible argument against the cosmological view Richard Swinburne has explained that the clue is in God’s name: Jahweh/Jehovah which is Hebrew and means ‘I am‘ which indicates that God is, was and shall be i.e. He is outside of time.
G W Leibniz explained Copleston’s view in the ‘Principle of Sufficient Reason’, that God is a metaphysically necessary being – there must be an absolute cause ® that cause is God ® God cannot exist, and again the idea that from this being came the contingent (dependent) upon universe. God is reason enough.
1 b) i. For what reasons have some thinkers rejected the cosmological argument?
Most opponents of this view take issue with the idea that infinite regress is impossible. Hume in the 18th Century regarded our powers of observation as limited – just because we have seen what w believe to be limited series of chains of causes and effects does not mean that in the larger area of the universe there was necessarily a first cause. After all we cannot get outside our world to be more objective.
Bertrand Russell took up this idea with his suggestion that the universe just is- Brute Fact – and why not just accept that.
Even Immanuel Kant argued that the notion of cause & effect comes from a way of seeing that our mines impose on the world and that this way of seeing is of Limited value but which we have to use or go mad!
Going further, Hume wonders why, even if we accept that there may be a first cause, does it have to be God? And even if we call it ‘God’ what can we possibly learn about ‘God’s’ nature? We certainly can’t deduce that for example he is good!
On a practical level the cosmological argument is rejected for being an inductive one; one where the conclusion leaps beyond the evidence available to an unsound conclusion.
And finally Hume and others, query the nature of the world which exists – after all if God created and God is good why then does evil exist?
1b) ii. How far is it possible to regard the cosmological argument as a strong argument?
Even your most fervent believer should realise, as Aquinas did, that this argument has flows; it can suggest reasons for believing that God exists but can never ultimately prove it. As Anselm said ‘reasoned argument can strengthen strength but is not a true substitute for commitment to God’.
Nevertheless the argument has stood the test of time, it has not been disproved. But perhaps we should view it as the best theory yet. After all Hume’s suggestion that just because experience tells us all events have a cause this may not necessarily be the case with the universe, seems more than a little pedantic.
It is certainly true that this argument can tell us nothing about the nature of God.
Perhaps it is useful to use the Ockham’s, Razor Principle, to sum up the cosmological argument’s strength; i.e. as quoted by Richard Swinburne “the simplest explanation is usually the most reliable.“