Everything Needs a Cause, Right?

The state of understanding most Christian apologists use for the cosmological argument is very bad. Most of us are still back in the enlightenment, or even earlier. In fact if one reads the Boyle Lectures (that's 1690s) one sees all the issues of a modern apologetics message board, with very little real advance by the Christian apologists.

The problem revolves around the notion of causality. Causality requires linear direction and time. A causes B, it follows that a precedes B in a sequential effect. No Time means no sequential order, thus no cause. Time begins sequentially simultaneously with the Big Bang. So there is no way to speak of "before" the big bang because there can't be a "before time." Since time is the beginning of sequences there can be no scenic before the beginning of sequences; without sequences there is no begging and no "before." So the problem is that it is meaningless to say things like "everything that begins requires a cause." This is meaningless because we can't really speak of "the beginning" of the universe since the begging of the universe is also the beginning of time, and causality requires time. Thus there is no cause before the beginning of causes. Thus the whole idea of a final cause beginning the sequence that eventually leads to sequences is a lame idea. Yet most Christian Apologists use the Kalam argument (made so poplar by William Lane Craig) which begins "everything that begins requires a cause." The statement itself is self contradictory.

Of course the atheists muck things up even worse with their notions of Quantum theory (AKA "QM"). It seems that everything that begins doesn't require a cause. QM particles pop into exist seemingly out of nothing with no prior casual agent that can be decreed and thus, it seems something could come from nothing. Now it gets tricky at this point, because this not really what's happening, but the best that can come out of this observation is a big muddle.

It seems that we really don't find QM particles "popping" out of "nothing." They emerge from something called "vacuum flux." This is just a fancy name for more QM particles, that doesn't' matter, because it really is not actual nothingness. The problem is that physicists speak of VC as "nothing." So while one finds physicist speaking of QM being something from nothing, they know quite well its not. Now the tricky part is, the Christian apologist suspects, but we cannot prove, that there is a cause in there somewhere. But the skeptic can always elude the obvious implication of a cause since we don't have a direct observational proof of the need for a final cause. Our assumptions about final causes are pinned upon logic and not upon empirical observation (and this is of necessity, since we can't observe final cause since we can't observe "before" the begging of sequential ordering in time).

It seems that the skeptic has a built-in fail-safe to create a stalemate without he CA (cosmological argument) because our thinking as Christian apologists is often rooted in the thinking of the Robert Boil and the 1690s. We still think in terms of cause and effect, things begging, things needing causes and beginnings and logic proving this rather than empirical observation; although a large part of this argument is merely psychological, since in all fairness the skeptic can't prove anything either and we know darn well there has to be a cause back there somewhere.

I have developed an approach which I feel resolves this dilemma and lends a positive presumptive appeal to the CA. I feel that my approach changes the burden of proof in the debate because lends the apologist presumption, by meeting the prima facie burden of proof. This approach works in two phases:

(1) Sets up a "comfort zone" for the argument, or in other words, establishes criteria through which the bar is lowered for the standard of proof and the lower standard can be met; lower standard meaning "rational warrant for belief" rather than "proof."

We are not out to prove the existence of God. We are out to prove only that it is rational to construe the universe as the creation of God.

(2) Now it might be rational to doubt that too. Two contradictory approach can both be rational if neither of them is guaranteed by absolute proof. But in such a case one must go with presumption. The presumption lies with the system that meets prima facie(PF) burden, which is met when one demonstrates that the information is sufficient to establish a rational warrant for a belief.

The outcome of a prima facie argument is that the burden of proof is reversed. Now it becomes the other side's burden to show that the PF case has not been made. What is it in my version of the CA that swings this point over from burden of proof to PF case? It's the way I deal with the notion need for causality.

The standard Christian apologetics approach is usually to say "everything we observe needs a cause, so the universe must need a cause." This leaves the skeptics cold and they just keep harping on their QM stuff. My approach is to move away from the need causes. I no longer call my argument "first cause." I use the term "cosmological" but not "first cause" or "final cause." I don't speak of causes and I never claim "everything that begins to exist recks a cause." Most skeptics will be expecting this, usually they are thrown into a state of total confusion when they learn that I don't bother with this.

My approach is to use the scholastic model of necessity and contingency rather than cause and effect. Now one might think this is so old fashioned and pre modern that it would be untenable. But no, it's the basis of model logic. One can easily argue, what with the return to the impotence of the model aspects from Hartshorne and Platinga, and with Godell's OA being based firmly upon necessity/contingency, that category is alive and well. Now skeptics will remain incredulous of course, but the category can be defended easily with Spinoza's chart of modalities. The categories are there in logic and cannot be denied.

Moreover, move on from that point to speak of "prior conditions," rather than causes. The idea of prior conditions is tricky, since we all there is a cause lurking somewhere behind it. But the skeptic is lambasting us for speaking of causes, and with this approach we need not speak of them. That way the obvious need for one is enthemimatic; that is the skeptic will pick it out himself, but he can't really say anything about it we aren't claiming it as part of the argument. If the skeptic brings it up, well it's a straw man argument, even though it's really there in the background.

Prior conditions is a tricky category and I have the following analogy. In QM theory we face the concept of the VC and the particle emerge from it. We know from observation that this slows way down the closer one gets to the singularity, and we know that we have no observations whatsoever from timeless state (how could we)? Three conditions obtain in which Amp's emerge: (1) the emerge amid physical law. Even though they seem to contradict our previous understanding of law, they are not opposed to it and QM theory is the business of showing how we can assume their harmonious existence with physical law; (2) They emerge in time; since we have no counter observation we must assume so; (3) They emerge from VF. Skeptics have howled and said "that must means more particles." But so what? that's still something. It means they aren't coming form real nothingness. As long as something exits prior to the "first" existent, that existent is not first and what prior to it must be accounted for. IF we don't wish to end up in an infinite causal regress, then we have to assume that there is some prior conditions which is the basic condition of all existence.


It's like fish. Fish are not caused by water. You can't say "water = fish." But, fish are always found in or near bodies of water. You dot' find fish living in the sand in the desert. There are fish which are native to the North American desert, but they live in water deep in caverns and have actually lost eyes because they live in total darkness. But again, the one prior condition we have for fish is water. Now someone will say "but there is causal relationship there." Yes, but my argument doesn't require that there be no causal relation, but I don't have to push the causal relation to win the argument; all I have to do is demonstrate that there must be some eternal prior condition that is necessary for all contingent conditions to be; and of course we construe this "eternally prior condition" as God.

Another important aspect of this argument is to get away form time. We must get over the simplistic idea that BB is the moment of creation and "before" that (which there is no "before") is God in eternity. That treats time like a place that one could go, where God is. Time may be running eternally, it has a "reassert" with the Big Bang but it doesn't' have to be a "place" one could go to visit. Thus it may not be that we can think of the timeless void as a realm beyond the natural realm.

My Argument: Cosmological Necessity:


Let PAS = Putative state of affairs

Necessity: = That which does not depend upon anything else for its existence, that which cannot fail to exist or cease to exist. Please note: this is not logical necessity alone but ontological or metaphysical necessity.

Arbitrary Necessity: The attempt to equate a contingency with a necessity in terms of ontological function; or the imputation of ultimate origin to a purely arbitrary convention. (Note: AN's are to be regarded as impossibilities by virtue of their absurd contradictory nature.)

Contingency: = That which must depend for its existence upon the prior of existence of some higher thing, that which can fail or cease to exist.(Note:these two aspects, fail/cese--either one or both--and dependence, are linked since in most cases the reason for failing or ceasing is due to dependence upon prior state, condition, cause or source).

Existent = A Thing which exists

UEO = Ultimate Eternal Origin: The "final cause" or what stands in place of a final cause, the ultimate origin of all things which is the upshot of the argument; this is neutral term which may or may not imply God.

1) True absolute nothingness as a Putative State of affairs is impossible.

a) The concept is self contradictory since a PAS is something and not nothingness.

b) Absolute nothingness must proceed time, thus no time = no causality, no sequential events, no movement, no chap. Thus, nothing could ever come to be.

c) You cannot get something from nothing

2) The Universe is contingent upon prior conditions:

a) Infurred logically from the observation that the universe is nothing more than a collection of contingent things.

b) Consensus in science indicates that the existence of the universe as a whole is contingent upon prior conditions: Matter, energy, all physical phenomena stem from 'gravitational field' the prior condition of which is he big bang, the prior condition of which is the singularity, the prior condition of which is...we do not know.

c) All naturalistic phenomena are empirically derived, thus they are contingent by their very nature.

As Karl Popper said, empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something.(Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.)

3) By defossion the "ultimate" origin cannot be contingent, since by definition it would require the explanation of still prior conditions.

4) Therefore, the universe must be produced by some prior cause which always existed, is self sufficient, and not dependent upon anything higher.

5) Naturalistic assumptions of determinism, and the arbitrary nature of naturalistic cosmology creates an arbitrary necessity; if the UEO has to produce existents automatically and/or deterministically due to naturalistic forces, the contingencies function as necessities

6) Therefore, since arbitrary necessities are impossible by nature of their absurdity, thus we should attribute creation to an act of the will; the eternal existent must be possessed of some ability to create at will; and thus must possess will.


7) An eternal existent which creates all things and chooses to do so is compatible with the definition of "God" found in any major world religion, and therefore, can be regarded as God. Thus God must exist QED!

In this argument I set up the contingency of the universe as the predication of an ultimate prior condition. Anything naturalistic is automatically contingent (this can be backed up by Carol Popper and many others). Thus the ontological necessity which predicates these contingencies is a priori some from of prior condition which must be understood as eternal and boundless, otherwise the idea of a contingent universe filled with individual contingencies makes no sense.

From there the argument that this eternal prior condition is equivalent to or can be construed as an object of religious devotion is easy. Of course atheists will fight tooth and nail to keep from accepting the notion that the universe is contingent. They will charge that this is the fallacy of composition. Don't let them! The fallacy of composition only works when the parts are different. In other words, if a brick wall is made up of all bricks then it is not a fallacy of composition to say "this is a wall of bricks." Thus, one case say "this is a universe of contingencies, thus, it is a contingent universe." Moreover, Dr. Kooks (Univ. Texas--our fine main branch in our Glorious UT system) uses memeology (a funky kind of math stuff) to argue that wholly contingent parts make for a wholly contingent situation. In other words, a universe made up of all contingent parts is a contingent universe. Establishing this point will be the hardest part of the debate, but the skeptic will be scratching his head and asking "what's mermology?"

From there one directs them to Dr. Koons' Website.

I think this approach offers some unique features that get us way from the 1690s and put Christian apologetics in the 21st century.


J. Hawthorne said…
1) Although I need to reflect on your argument some more, I think it has merit. Also, I like your site.
2) I am not sure why you wish to settle for warrant on your view. What is the role of evidence in apologetics as you see it? However, rationality is a worthwhile move toward warrant and if sucessful this would be valueable.
3)You need to be more clear about your notion of what time is. Is is causality? If so, then what consistutes that? If it is a sucession of moments, then a metaphysical view of time possible. In this way God could be eternally temporal if he could have thoughts in sucession. I am open to this view. Of course I have assumed mental causality, which physicalists want to deny, but why give them that? IF you don't mean to support a sort of metaphysical time, then how is your view of time really that much different than Craig's? Unless of course you mean that God is strictly Outside of time, but that sure is not getting us out of the 1690's! In any case you have not supported that causality requires time. In this case, mental causality (minds that are not physcial and posiibly not temporal) are impotent. However, if you want to take a metaphysical view of time you might be able to ground this statement with the support of all things being in time (God, angels, minds, numbers?, etc.).Maybe you could have some exemptions for abstract objects (if they exist).
4) You have far too harsh on William Lane Craig. Your criticism claiming that his statement is "self contradictory" begs the question of time, which you are not exactly clear on in your post. EVEN IF I DISAGREE with Craig, it is certainly not the case that he is contradictory here or at least not clear from your presentation of him here. Your view on time here needs more clarity.
5) Your view on time is also assumed in your argument, so it is essential to clarify on this construction of it.
Atheist demand absolute proof. They try to hold the bar far higher than they or anytone else is willing to meet to justify their own beilefs. They expect religious believers to meet any hieight they set. I argue for a rational warrent otherwise they will always use the epistemologist fallacy to unseat any kind of "proof" I could offer.

I also use it because I can claim that I've met Pmria facie burden and put BOP back on them. Since many of my arguments are phenomenological in nature, cliaming a rational warrent allows arguments from different paradigms (because it's only offeered as "if one chooses it as rationality") in the same arsonel.

As for time, I see it as the arrow of sequential ordering.

I think Craig contradicts when he tries to get out of the problem of tempral begining by saying God can create at the very same point in time that something happens. That doesn't answer the problem, since in a timeless void God could never initiate even the thought of creating anything.

I also think it's a problem to argue from things begining. "Everthing that beigns requries a case." That's what his arguemnt begins with, I think that's a big mistake.
Of course causailty requries time.

see the books Time the Familiar Stranger, by Frasure, and Time's Arrow (can't remember author) and God and the New Physics (Davies).

If time is seuqential order, then causality requires a sequence. No sequence no causality.
J. Hawthorne said…
I think this is a good move (to argue for a rational warrent) and one you (we) should make. However, I think we give away too much to the general problem of skepticism if we hold the kind of atheistic espistemological critrion that you may have in mind. So, the rational move is mainly for getting in the door.

I think espeacially in an apologetics context, we should argue against the general problem of skepticism, otherwise you will never get to Christ.

Re: Time and Causality - I think I agree with your view here. However, Craig's view is based on Physical time (motion) and I think it is coherent with respect to his "before" creation stuff. However, I agree that it is problematic and the tenselessness of time and talk of time is suggestive of some problems. His back up position would be more like Swineburne's with an Amorphus time position (from a discussion with him - I don't know if he has that in print.). So, I still think you are too hasty with Craig, but your own position is clarified somewhat.
Peter Kirby said…
It's possible that I missed something--how do you establish that Necessary Being has "will"?

best wishes,
Peter Kirby
J. Hawthorne said…
"Causality requires linear direction and time. A causes B, it follows that a precedes B in a sequential effect. No Time means no sequential order, thus no cause. Time begins sequentially simultaneously with the Big Bang. So there is no way to speak of "before" the big bang because there can't be a "before time."

Things can be sequential and not be in time; for example, numbers. 2 comes before 3 sequentially but not necessarily chronologically. It is not meaningless to speak of the beggining of the universe and the beggining of time. Time as physical time begins in the context of metaphysical time. To be fair here Craig does not adhere to a view of metaphysical time. A good reference on this metaphysical time and causality is God and the Nature of Time by Garrett DeWeese (Ashgate, ISBN: 0 7546 3519 8).

Although I may not lead off with an argument from cause and effect, I am still not convinced that it is a bad arguement. If you argued that there are no abstract objects, you would possibly undercut my numbers counter arguement.

Also another problem is 1 does not work. A PSA is not necessarily a something. IF it were would talking about "nothing" refer to something and not nothing in that case?

Unicorns don't exist. We have a concept of a unicorn, and we can talk about our concept and think WITH it, but we do not actually think of a unicorn. So, 1a is false. I also don't have any reason to grant 1b.

Also 2a assumes that God is not observable. This seems false. But I am willing to grant 2 in general if you are stipulating that the universe is simply that which is physical. This may give too much away too depending on what you mean(what about the Incarnation?). If you think the "world" is bigger than the universe (contains non-physical entities), and can see this being the sort of distintion you are intending.

So, i guess in the end I just don't think it works. But I do think there is a prior condition for the universe ... it just still feels like a cause in the typical Christian arguments.

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