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Cosmological Argument

October 24, 2009

Study notes – no original content.

The Cosmological Argument
The Argument:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause to its existence.
The Premises:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.  We consider this a “first principle of metaphysics (the study of what exists), meaning it’s more obvious than any premises or proofs suggested to defend the principle:
  • Parmenides of Elea, the ancient Greek philosopher, put it this way : “Nothing comes from nothing”
  • Stuff doesn’t “pop” into existence out of nothing.
  • A denial of the principle is more difficult to overcome than belief in magic or miracles.  For with magic and miracles, at least there is something that causes what we see, even if we don’t understand it.  However to believe something came into existence uncaused out of nothing requires suspension of one of our most basic intuitions.
  • If things could pop into being out of literally nothing, then it is curious why it doesn’t happen all the time.
  1. The universe began to exist.  There are philosophical and empirical reasons for accepting this premise.
    1. The argument against the existence of an actual infinite
      1. An actual infinite cannot exist.  Mathematicians use ‘transfinite math’ (introduced by Georg Cantor), but this does not guarantee that an actual infinite number of things exist in the real world.  Example of ‘Hilbert’s Hotel’.
      2. An infinite regress of temporal events is an actual infinite.
      3. Therefore, an infinite regress of temporal events cannot exist.  That is, the past has a beginning.
    2. The argument against the formation of an actual infinite from successive addition
      1. The temporal series of events is a collection formed by successive addition.
      2. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.  One can’t count to infinity.  Why?  Because for every number you count, you can always count one more.  Another way of saying this is that it is impossible to “traverse the infinite”.  Example of the running man.
      3. Therefore, the temporal series of events cannot be an actual infinite.  That is, the past has a beginning.
    3. The expansion of the universe
      1. Einstein’s relativity theories predicted an expanding universe
      2. Hubble (1929) later confirmed this prediction by observing that all galaxies are receding; the universe is “flying apart”
      3. Hubble’s confirming discovery of the expanding universe model would lead some to conclude that the universe began to exist at some time in the finite past – the “Big Bang”
      4. Additional discoveries have confirmed the big bang theory: background radiation detected by Penzias and Wilson (1965) an important piece of evidence
      5. Other models of the universe have been proposed, such as steady-state, and the “bouncing” universe.  To quote Stephen Hawking, work by he and Roger Penrose (1970) “at last proved that there must have been a big bang singularity provided only that general relativity is correct and the universe contains as much matter as we observe”.
    4. The second law of thermodynamics
      1. “The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum”, Clausius (1865)
      2. Put another way, unless a closed system is acted upon (energy of some kind is introduced), the system will become more disorderly as time progresses.
      3. “…according to the second law the whole universe must eventually reach a state of maximum entropy…everywhere the situation will be exactly the same…There will be no objects anymore, but the universe will consist of one vast gas of uniform composition…Because almost all energy would have been degraded, i.e. converted into kinetic energy of the existing particles (heat), this supposedly future state of the universe, which will also be its last state, is called the heat death of the universe (Zwart, 1976)
      4. Examples: melting ice, rusting steel
      5. If the universe has existed forever, and the second law of thermodynamics is true, then why isn’t the universe already in a state of maximum entropy?
      6. Rather than disregard the validity of the second law (which is fundamental to scientific inquiry), we conclude that the universe began to exist at some time in the finite past.
The Conclusion:
  1. The universe has a cause to its existence.
Implications of the argument:
Nothing can be self-caused, for that requires existence before existence, or something to be distinct from itself, both of which are absurd.  Therefore, the universe has a cause to its existence that is independent of itself.  This cause must be uncaused, timeless, and spaceless.  These are key attributes of the God of the Bible.
References:         Craig, 1979, The Kalam Cosmological Argument
                            Hawking, 1996, A Brief History of Time
                            Hubble, 1929, A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae
                            Penzias and Wilson, 1965, A Measurement of Excess Antennae Temperature at 4080 Mc/s
                            Clausius, 1865, presentation to Philosophical Society of Zurich
                            Zwart, 1976, About Time          
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