*The term God is not being used as a religious concept, but in an Aristotelian sense where the term God represents an explanatory entity for some observable feature of the universe. Nor is the conclusion of this argument necessarily tied to any specific religious tradition.
- Whatever comes into existence has a cause
- The universe came into existence
- Therefore, the universe has a cause
This argument is valid. The conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. Are the premises true? Premise one does not claim that all ‘events’ are caused, but leaves this as an open question for continued investigations into the Quantum realm to determine.
Rather, premise one claims that things don’t inexplicable pop into existence out of nothing. Premise one seems obviously true, or at the very least, far more plausible than its denial. Occasionally you will hear the odd theoretical physicist claim that things do pop into existence out of nothing at the Quantum level. For example, ‘because the law of gravity exists the universe can and will create itself out of nothing’ (Stephen Hawking – The Grand Design or Lawrence Krauss A Universe out of Nothing). Despite the philosophical blunder of stating that something can create itself out of nothing (the ‘something’ would have had to exist before it existed in order to bring itself into existence!?!) in these instances ‘nothing’ is not being defined in its philosophically proper sense of ‘non-being’ or ‘no thing’, but rather as a rich, pulsating field, subject to physical laws, resulting in Quantum fluctuations. In other words, calling a quantum energy field nothing is guilty of equivocation. Once this confusing misuse of the word ‘nothing’ is cleared up, premise one (as a metaphysical intuition confirmed by our repeated experience) seems secure. Out of nothing, nothing comes. Even the notorious skeptic David Hume wrote in a personal correspondence, ‘I never asserted something as absurd as something could arise without a cause.”
Premise two may be controversial. However, it seems correct for philosophical and scientific reasons. Philosophically, though the concept of an infinite exists in our minds and is a well-defined mathematical concept, it appears impossible to traverse an actually infinite in our experience. For example, if you were asked to count to infinity you would never be done; there would be no end in sight – each number you counted would not get you any closer to your goal.
In a similar manner, if the universe were eternal in the past the moments preceding this present moment would be infinite, but that would entail that we would never arrive at the present moment. We have arrived at the present moment, so the past can’t be infinite.
Scientifically, the majority perspective amongst cosmologists is that the universe came into existence around 14 billion years ago through an explosion referred to as the Big Bang, followed by an inflationary period that may or may not have spawned other baby universes, to eventually arrive at our current cosmic state of affairs. Atheist Richard Dawkins’ writes,
In the middle of the twentieth century there were two competing models of how the universe came into being, called the ‘steady state’ model and the ‘big bang’ model. The steady state model was very elegant. But eventually turned out to be wrong – that is, predictions based on it were shown to be false. According to the steady state model, there never was a beginning: the universe has always existed in pretty much its present form. The big bang model, on the other hand, suggested that the universe began at a definite moment in time, in a strange kind of explosion. The predictions made on the basis of the big bang model kept turning out to be right, and so it has now been generally accepted by most scientists.
The evidence for the Big Bang includes Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the red shift in distant galaxies indicating an expanding universe, and the cosmic background radiation interspersed throughout the universe indicating the after glow of the big bang. Also, consider the second law of thermodynamics, which states that energy in a closed system moves inexorably towards entropy. Our universe has not reached a state of maximum entropy which is indicative of the universe not being eternal in its past.
Premise 2 does, of course, rest on the shaky foundation of scientific consensus but it remains more plausible than its denial given the philosophical and scientific reasons stated above. Premise three follows logically and necessarily from premises one and two. We then must consider what type of casual entity could be responsible for the universe. The beginning of the universe represents the beginning of space, time and matter.
Therefore, the cause would have to be space less, changeless, timeless, immaterial, and powerful (for no effect is greater than its cause). Two entities might fit this description: either abstract numbers (controversially presupposing Platonism) or a disembodied mind. Abstract numbers don’t stand in casual relationships (the number ten can’t cause anything). Therefore, the conclusion of the argument is that an immaterial, space less, timeless, powerful, disembodied mind created the universe. Moreover, there are one or two arguments that would lead to us postulating a personal mind, but perhaps that is for another time. Either way, this is, in part, what most people mean by the word God, whether they believe in he/she at all.
- You are equivocating on the word cause. You are using the word in different senses (i.e. material causation in one premise and a different use of the word in premises three)
- The conclusion of this argument is only a minimal concept of a deity. This is not the full-orbed God of religious people.
- I am skeptical about the ability of a) a disembodied mind existing and b) That this disembodied mind could cause anything.
- You are assuming that what is true within the universe (everything that comes into existence has a cause) is true of the entire universe. Why should we assume that? Isn’t this the fallacy of composition?
- Premise two might be overturned in the future. Einstein’s theory of relativity, upon which the standard big band model rests, breakdowns in the very, very early moments of the universe. We need a realistic quantum gravitational model, which we don’t have yet.
- Why assume that there is only one cause fitting that description? Why assume monotheism? Why not polytheism? A multitude of God-like beings creating the universe.
- What caused God? Silly, perhaps, and a misunderstanding of premise one, but still fun as a quick rejoinder.
- ‘God’ is not an explanation of anything. Is this not an example of the ‘God of the gaps’ fallacy – inserting ‘God’s’ creative activity into the gaps yet to be explained by science?
If these real (and pseudo) objections can be responded to in a reasonable fashion, which I certainly think they can be, we may have a good argument for the existence of some type of deity, or at the very least, a defeater for naturalism. Either way, we do have a valid argument where, I think, the affirmation of the premises is more plausible then their negations. This has been compelling for some.
 Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality. p. 164