Contention: God is the best evidence for the origin of the universe
The Cosmological Argument:
The Cosmological argument follows nicely from the Contingency argument because it takes the question of ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ and gets specific with the origin of the universe. Now logically, this is an airtight argument. But are the premises true? Let’s take a look.
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Before we unpack this argument, let us look again at a helpful video of this argument from Dr. William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith website (reasonablefaith.org):
The key to the first premise is the statement “begins.” You’ll notice if you use this argument that many people will gloss by this word and ask the question, ‘well who caused God?’ God, because of His divine attributes, one of which is aseity, does not have a cause for His beginning. He has existed eternally. God is the uncaused cause. God is beyond space, time, matter, and energy. William Lane Craig refers to God as an unembodied mind because a mind is not material. (1) We humans have brains, but our brains are not to be confused with minds.
The first premise of this argument is relatively uncontroversial in philosophical and scientific worlds. However, getting back to the idea of causal beginnings, I think we need to establish some understanding of why there can’t be a regress of infinite causes. What do I mean by that?
A regress of infinite causes means we can’t go back in time infinitely and beg the question ‘if God caused the universe, then what caused God?’ And then take it one step further, ‘then what caused the cause that caused God?’, and go deeper ‘and what caused the cause, that caused the cause, that caused God?’ You get the idea.
But you may remember you heard about infinities existing in mathematics. Let’s talk about the difference between a potential infinite and an actual infinite. In a potential infinite, strictly speaking in the mathematical world, we can always add a number to our set of numbers, or subtract a number in the world of negative numbers. But think about the absurdity of an actual infinite in mathematical equations…
Infinity – infinity=zero
But what if we take infinity and just subtract all the odd numbers from the even numbers?
And what if we take infinity and subtract infinity, but leave out the numbers 1, 2, and 3?
So you can see mathematically very quickly the absurdity of an actual infinity, but let’s take one more example from mathematician David Hilbert called “Hilbert’s Hotel.” (2) In this real world example there exists a hotel where all the rooms are full, yet people can continue to check in and out and there is always room for them! Think about this a little bit but I’m sure it will make sense that the idea of an actual infinite in our world is absurd.
As far as premise 2, the universe began to exist, we now have strong scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe. Albert Einstein in his general theory for relativity performed math that revealed an expanding universe. Unfortunately the thought and academic pressures of the day promoted a steady state universe so Einstein fabricated the idea of a cosmological constant, a constant when put into the equation for the general theory of relativity would arrive at the conclusion of a steady state universe.
It took the work of two other scientists in the 1920’s, a Belgian Catholic priest named Georges Lemaitre’ and Alexander Friedmann who saw the error in Einstein’s work. And then in 1929 Edwin Hubble was looking out the observatory on Mt. Wilson in southern California and saw that the red light from distant galaxies was a different tone of red than what it should have been if the universe were in a steady state. This incredible discovery proved scientifically the universe was in fact expanding! This discovery led to the implication the universe had a true beginning at t (time)=0. Einstein would later go to Mt. Wilson to see it himself and recall his cosmological constant, or fudge factor, as being the greatest blunder of his life.
The singularity of a beginning of the universe eventually became known as the big bang.
More recently Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin (Borde, Guth, Vilenkin Theorem) observed that any universe that is constantly in a state of expansion, could not have had an eternal past, but must have a finite beginning. (3) This is strong verification, actual proof, that our universe had a cosmic beginning.
So, given the plausibility of premise 1 and 2, our conclusion necessarily follows that the universe has a cause for its existence. Now remember, if we talk about our universe being all space, time, matter, and energy, the cause would have to be outside of space, time, matter, and energy. Craig refers to this being as God and is best represented as an unembodied mind because minds are not physical. Craig also argues that this mind must possess unbelievable power and of a personal nature. Power because of the magnificence of creating the universe and intelligent life, and personal because there was a decision to create as opposed to not create. (1)
It is important to understand this specific argument makes no admissions whatsoever in regards to God’s moral nature or attributes. This argument also doesn’t prove the existence of a God for any specific religion. The weight of all five arguments in this section are key, as they all collectively address the many attributes of the God identified within Christianity, and therefore carry much weight as to the reasonableness of the existence of the Christian God.
(1) William Lane Craig Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics 3rd Edition (Crossway, 2008)
(2) David Hilbert, Lecture: Uber das Unendliche (1924). Popularized through George Gamow’s book: One Two Three…Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science (New York: Viking Press, 1947) p. 17
(3) Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, Alexander Vilenkin Physical Review Letters; Inflationary space-times are incomplete in past directions (April 15, 2003)