An argument for the existence of God.

If you look at history--the chain of cause and effect through time--it's obvious that the chain has to have a starting point. In its crudest form, the first cause argument says, "the universe had to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is God."

But why doesn't God have to come from somewhere? Many modern wielders of the first cause argument can't answer that coherently, but the answer dates back to Aristotle. He postulated the first cause as a sort of metaphysical magnet. The first cause initiates change not by acting, but by being the focus and goal--the telos--of the actions of everything else. The unmoved mover doesn't need a cause to explain its changes, because it doesn't actually remains totally stable, while everything else changes around it.

There are a couple of consequences to this. First, if you're a Greek philosopher, you're going to figure that everything will be naturally attracted toward good and fullness of being. Thus, the first cause must be the ultimate being and the ultimate good--in other words, God. Second, you have to figure out why everything moved away from the prime mover in the first place; this provides an impetus for all sorts of cosmological and dualistic theories about falls from grace.

The argument of the existence of God from the First cause is one of the Five Ways from Saint Thomas Aquinas.
  1. There are events.
  2. Every event has a cause distinct from it
  3. Everything that we observe is an effect of some previous cause.
  4. Since there cannot be an infinite regress of events, there must be some Uncaused Cause.
  5. God exists.
First off, (V) does not logically follow from (IV). It is not a deductive consequence of (IV). It is quite possible for (V) to be false even if (IV) should happen to be true.

Why? God as defined by Saint Thomas Aquinas is the Christian God. This being is in addition to being the creator of the world is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenvolent. There is nothing in the argument that shows that these properties exist in the Uncaused Cause. Thus, the inference from a first cause to the existence of God is invalid.

Secondly, the Birthday Fallacy. (I) and (II) imply that there is at least one causal chain of events, and (III) tells us that all of them have a first member. This first member, cannot have a cause, otherwise it wouldn't be the first member of the chain. Thus each chain must have a first member. It does not follow that every causal chain must have the same first cause. This would be akin to claiming that everyone who has a birthday has the same birthday. (I) - (III) do not show that there is just one first cause.

Next, (I) - (III) are inconstant. These premises imply that every causal chain has an uncaused cause. This means that some event has no cause, which is in contradiction to (II). They cannot all be true.

The premise that "Every event has a cause distinct from it" is nothing but an assumption.

An event can, and often is, caused by itself, or perhaps by another instance of itself.

For example, rain is caused by rain. Because of rain there is an accumulation of water which then evaporates into clouds. This causes rain. This is cyclical causality. St. Thomas' argument is rigid.

More importantly, even if we somehow could determine there was a single cause that started everything, that in no way means that this single cause is "god", that is to say it is some kind of an absolute being which has no cause.

No event has a single cause. For every event there are many causes, and each event is a cause of many other events. It takes a big leap of faith to state there is a single cause of all events, and an even bigger leap of faith to state this cause is god.

Extrapolation is always a questionable method of coming to conclusions. Why not just admit we have absolutely no idea of how everything started. What is the use of this speculation? Let's just live the best we can: Let's be kind and gentle, let's avoid harming others and ourselves. Speculating about something that is completely beyond our comprehension is pointless, a total waste of time and energy.

Suppose a programmer writes a computer game named "Universe and Life." What would be the point for the characters of the game to speculate about the reality outside the computer? Sure, the game has a major cause: the programmer. But is "it" a single cause? Of course not. The programmer has been influenced by other games and other programmers, as well as many other factors. All of these are completely beyond the grasp of the characters in the game. So, why even try to figure it out? No matter what "solution" they may come up with, they will be wrong.

St. Thomas was equally wrong.

Although Thomas Aquinas' logic in the above example was dreadful, Aristotle did a little better; as izubachi points out, when the argument for a first cause is phrased as shown above, (IV) does not follow on from (III).

Aristotle however, came up with quite possibly the most hilarious, most brilliant philosophical concept EVER in proof of (IV). He stated that the Universe could NOT be of an infinite age, because we would have never reached the present day if that was so...

I laughed for about ten minutes after I heard this. Not disputing it (...necessarily; I leave that to greater minds than mine), but just utterly amused by the whole idea!

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