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Cosmological Arguments Against the Existence of God

David Baake

A Cosmological Argument for the Nonexistence of God

Theists frequently make the assertion that it is just as impossible to prove that there is no such thing as god as it is to prove that there is such a thing as god; therefore, atheism (the positive assertion that no god can exist) is rooted in blind faith, just as theism (the positive assertion that a god does exist) is. I believe, however, that there is a rational basis for the positive assertion that god cannot exist, which can be arrived at through extrapolation on empirical evidence, and through deductive reasoning regarding the properties of the universe.

Before I begin to articulate the cosmological basis for a positive assertion against the existence of god, I'd like to first consider the cosmological argument made in favor of the existence of god. Perhaps the best recent articulation of this argument is made by American philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig, whose Kalam cosmological argument, an expansion on the cosmological argument originally formulated by Thomas Aquinas, is highly influential among defenders of theism today. The argument seeks to prove that god--defined as "the uncaused first cause of the universe"--must exist, based on the following points:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe must have a cause.

The second assertion is supported by the following argument:

  1. An actual infinite set cannot exist.
  2. A beginningless series of events is an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore; a beginningless series of events cannot exist.

Craig argues that the existence of an actual infinite is impossible, because such a quantity would possess logically absurd properties. He offers several illustrations of these alleged absurdities, making the case that it is absurd to suggest that a quantity exists that can be divided by, multiplied to, subtracted from, or added to by any other number without ever experiencing a change in its value. In every single one of these illustrations, however, he places some sort of finite limitation on an entity which he initially defines as infinite in his attempt to prove the impossibility of an actual infinite existing. For instance, Craig argues that it is absurd to suggest that a circle which rotates once every one thousand years for eternity will rotate the same number of times as a circle which rotates once every year for eternity; in other words, he argues that it is impossible to suggest that infinity multiplied by one thousand would equal infinity, so therefore, it must be absurd to suggest that an actual infinite could exist. However, one can only say that the circle rotating once a year has rotated more frequently than the circle rotating once every one thousand years by analyzing their behavior during a finite period of time, which is an illogical method of comparison, since we are told that the circles will rotate throughout eternity, and thus are infinite and extra-temporal. Because neither circle ever stops rotating, it is impossible to quantify the number of times they rotate, therefore, we define them both as infinite because both are eternally increasing. The rate at which the circles' rotations increase is not relevant.

This principle can be illustrated in a simple linear equation: a line rising infinitely at a 45 degree angle with the x axis will ultimately reach the same height on the y axis as a line rising infinitely at a 90 degree angle with the x axis; it is true that, if measured over a finite period of time, the line rising at 90 degrees will always be ahead of the line rising at 45 degrees, but the 45 degree line will always reach the same points on the y axis that the 90 degree line does, it will simply take it twice as much time to do so, and because infinite entities are by their nature extratemporal, the difference in the rate of increase is completely irrelevant. Similarly, an entity whose quantity is eternally increasing (an infinite entity) does not lose this quality if its quantity at a given point in time is added to or subtracted from. Craig makes the mistake of thinking of infinity as a quantity, rather than an eternally increasing trajectory. An actual infinite trajectory is certainly possible, and time is just this sort of eternally increasing, infinite trajectory, which is advancing with every second that passes.

Aside from the fact that an actual infinite trajectory is possible, there are other obvious problems with Craig's argument for god's existence. Craig, in defiance of the Occam's Razor principle which states that the simplest logical explanation for a phenomenon is the most probable, postulates an infinite, extratemporal god as his solution to the "impossibility" of an infinite universe. The same "problem" exists with the postulation of a god with an infinite lifespan as exists with the postulation of a universe with an absolute lifespan, the only difference is that there is empirical evidence that suggests that the universal series of causes and effects is infinite, while there is no empirical evidence that a god even exists. Throughout human history, every entity ever detected has had a physical cause; therefore, it is logical to assume that all events have a physical cause, and illogical to assume that there could be an uncaused entity. Therefore, it is more logical to believe that the universe is comprised of an infinite series of physical causes and effects than to believe that it is the finite creation of an infinite creator.

Indeed, the postulation of god as the creator of the universe creates more uncertainty than it eliminates. If god exists, who created god? God could not have created itself; it is logically impossible for a being to create itself, because creation of the nonevolutionary sort requires intellect and intentionality, and if god evolved, then it is not really god as humans define the concept: the infinite, omnipotent, creator of all existence. It would be impossible for god to create its intellect or intentionality ex nihilo. If god were created by another entity, Super-God perhaps, then not only does god cease to meet our definition of "god," but we need an explanation for the origins of Super-God, and the origins of his creator, and so on ad infinitum.

Therefore, I postulate an alternative argument regarding the existence of god and the workings of the universe, defining "universe" as the totality of the physical realm, and using the same definition of "god" as is used in the Kalam cosmological argument.

  1. The universe is an infinite or beginningless series of physical causes and effects.
  2. An infinite series cannot have a creator or an initial uncaused cause.
  3. Therefore, the universe cannot have a creator or initial uncaused cause.
  4. Therefore, there cannot be a god.

On the Origin of Time

Yet another argument against the existence of god regards a logical impossibility in theism: it is said that god exists beyond time, but god's defining characteristics imply action, and the very notion of action is undefined and absurd beyond the restraints of time.[1]

1. Time could not have been created.

The notion that the dimension of time could have been created is logically absurd because the action of creation is undefined and absurd beyond the dimension of time. Creation is the process by which something that was nonexistent at one moment exists at another moment. The very concepts of creation--and indeed action in general--are defined by the dimension of time; in a universe without the dimension of time, there would not be causes, effects, actions, creations or creators; there would only be one, unchanging state of matter. We can distinguish between the creator and the creation only by looking at which existed first. If a hypothetical Martian came to study Earth, he would immediately know that the hypothesis that homo sapiens created automobiles is at least logically possible, but that the inverted hypothesis, that that automobiles created homo sapiens, is logically impossible, given no other information than the fact that humans existed before automobiles.

Time could not have been created, and there could not have been any active entity before time, but an active entity (such as god) could have existed alongside time for eternity. This active entity could not have created time if both time and the active entity came into existence simultaneously, or if both were infinite. Our Martian observer would know that the airplane could not have created the automobile, and that the automobile could not have created the airplane, because both of these artifacts came into existence at virtually the same time, and something cannot be a creator before it has been created. The same principle applies to the situation with god and time.

2. If god exists, it could not have created time. Therefore, if god does exist, it must be constrained by a feature of the universe, time, which either precedes god, or came into existence simultaneously with god.

3. If "god" is constrained by the universe's features, rather than the creator of these features, it is by definition, not god.

Of course, it could be argued that time is not an essential property of the universe, but rather, a subjective property experienced by beings traveling through an unchanging forth dimension of the universe. This is certainly a possibility. In this case, the universe is, in reality, infinite and unchanging. We return to the same argument as before: if the universe, rather than just time, is infinite, then god could be no more than a fellow traveler alongside the universe, but it could not have created the universe, any more than the airplane could have created the automobile.

Note

[1] As far as I know, I am the first to articulate this particular argument. If you know of someone who has done it before me, please let me know, because I'm sure their explanation is far superior to mine.




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Published:
  2006-08-13

Categories:
  Atheism, Christian Apologetics, Existence of God

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