The Cosmological Argument: “Eternal sky man used magic”.


The old cosmological argument as a classical ‘proof’ for the existence of God is apparently alive and well. It is used in practically every debate for the existence of God that I’ve come across. They sometimes rewrite it a little, believing to have strengthened its points, but the argument remains the same. The argument seems to require both supposition, and circular reasoning, whilst attempting to seem logical. William Lane Craig is always itching to use it before he even steps up to the podium. Hamza Tzortzis is under the unique impression that it still has merit especially if he uses pretentious language that is ultimately meaningless. The argument is as follows:

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

– In essence… you cannot get something from nothing.

I have several criticisms of this classical ‘proof’ for the existence of God that I’ll set out below, point by point.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
You may have noted several problems with the argument immediately, starting not with its first point, but with its overall premise that an infinite cannot possibly exist. The premise that an infinite cannot exist, in this case is negated by the idea that a creator was uncaused, and thus, infinite. On top of an infinite God, the argument presupposes that the first cause ‘created’ everything…. out of nothing. They attempt to argue that something from nothing is impossible, whilst arguing that something from nothing is possible, as long as an eternal overlord did it. They don’t in any way provide evidence for the presupposition that something – anything – is able to exist prior to time and space, or outside of time and space. And that’s a crucial point. They therefore have no logically sound base for their argument. We try to rationalise with them, debate respectfully, use grandiose philosophical terms on a level that they believe helps their cause, but I think perhaps we give the cosmological argument too much credit, when in fact its very fundamental premise is just a more eloquent rewording of: “Eternal sky man used magic“.

Secondly, the phrase “…that begins to exist” is vital to the flaw. It used to be simply “Everything has a cause”. Well, then, if everything includes itself, then we must say that a creator must also have a cause. This presented problems for the believer, and so the phrase “…that begins to exist” was added. But this addition isn’t free from flaws, in fact it multiplies them. It is clearly intense circular reasoning. It presumes two states of being. Things that begin to exist, suggests there are also things that don’t begin to exist, which suggests they’ve always existed, which exempts them from the entire argument. In turn, this means by splitting existence into two categories a) Things that begin to exist and by extension b) Things that don’t begin to exist, but exist anyway, those who use the cosmological argument defeat their own premise; that nothing can be infinite.

They are also trying to prove God, by exempting God from the argument. To put it a little more simply, it is like saying “Everything…. that is blue“. Everything encompasses itself, there is nothing excluded. But the addition of “..that is blue” suddenly changes the meaning of “everything” by exempting everything that isn’t blue. And so “…that begins to exist” exempts that which is presumed not to have a beginning, by which believers call “God”. The argument already presumes a God, whilst trying to prove a God. To put it simply, Point 1 can thus be rewritten as:
1. Everything, except God, has a cause.
Which means point 2. can be rewritten as:
2. The Universe (but not God) began to exist.
– If an exemption for “everything” exists – and the exemption is that which you’re trying to prove – then your argument is incomplete, and so it is flawed.

Also flawed, is the premise that everything has a cause. Hume argued that we can infer from our experience of houses, that an architect and builders are required for a house to exist. We know this from experience of how houses come to exist. But we have no experience of how universes – the chain itself, rather than the constituent parts – come to exist, and so it is not possible to draw the same inference as we would do for houses. In essence, causation applies to the constituent parts of the universe, but need not apply to the universe (and so, time) itself.

2. The universe began to exist.
This is a flippant attempt to link the beginning of the universe itself, to the beginning of everything within the universe, when in fact the two are separate. Causation requires time to exist. Therefore causation is a product of the universe, the universe need not itself be a product of the laws of causation observed within the universe. The argument “the universe began to exist” places the universe (the entire set, rather than the parts of the set) within itself, subject to the law of the parts of the set that it gave birth to.

There was no “before time“, there was no prior state of being in which the universe hadn’t “begun” to exist yet, and so there was never a possibility for something to exist in order to be the cause of the universe – and therefore time – itself. The word “begun” requires time. The word “before” requires time. The word “cause” requires time. If a cause existed, then time existed, which means the universe had already begun to exist.
To argue “you cannot get something from nothing” is meaningless when discussing the universe itself, because there has never been “nothing“, there has always been “something”.

Causality is linked necessarily to time. So the Kalam Cosmological argument, by including the phrase “…that begins to exist” suggests that something can exist outside of time and so has no cause, without actually providing evidence for that subtly made assertion. This is not a respectable argument for the existence of God, it is not a rational argument for the existence of God, and yet some of the key Theistic public speakers use it constantly. It isn’t in the slightest bit convincing.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
As noted above, this does not follow from the first two points, and therefore fails. It is a meaningless statement. Before making a case for the cosmological argument’s credibility, it seems to me that one must first produce the slightest piece of evidence that it is possible for something to exist outside of the all-encompassing confines of time and space. Which is of course both irrational, and self defeating. Existence requires time. And on that basis alone, the third point is irrational.

We non-believers simply say we do not know. Scientists are working on it. We just don’t know yet. In time, evidence will be gathered, theories formed, and conclusions drawn. It is simply not acceptable practice to notice a gap in our understanding, and place “God” without a significant amount of evidence for such an extraordinary claim, relying instead of horribly flawed philosophical talking points. The cosmological argument is one of those flawed talking points. It is nothing more than an eloquently formed synonym for “Eternal sky man used magic“.

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13 Responses to The Cosmological Argument: “Eternal sky man used magic”.

  1. First, your 1, 2, 3 is not the Cosmological Argument.

    The Cosmological Argument proves the existence of God, not the existence of the universe.

    That the universe has a cause is self evident, since the discoveries in cosmology have proved that the universe had a beginning.

    The Cosmological Argument is just simple reasoning. There is no need to confuse one’s self with postmodern sophistry.

    Meaning no offense but your enumerated explanations are without common sense and simple reasoning therefore they are without any intelligible or coherent meaning.

  2. “The Cosmological Argument proves the existence of God, not the existence of the universe.”

    – How so? I see no proof. You can’t just say it, and hope it’s true. Provide evidence.

    “That the universe has a cause is self evident, since the discoveries in cosmology have proved that the universe had a beginning.”

    – You appear to be confusing “had a beginning” with “had a cause”. A cause, again, suggests something prior. Which again, you have given no evidence for. Cosmology hasn’t proven that the universe had a “cause”, despite your gross manipulative statement. Try to come back with evidence that something can exist prior to time itself in order to be able to cause something. Until then, your attempts to defend the indefensible have failed.

    Meaning no offence, but your repetition of the cosmological argument, with all its flaws, and trying to present as something other than what it is, are without common sense and simple reasoning, and therefore are without any intelligible or coherent meaning.

  3. waltsamp says:

    Perhaps elsewhere you have argued that all knowledge concerning the existence of the universe can be found with certainty through the scientific enterprise. This can be true only if the universe is self-actualizing. In “The Making of Physical Reality” at http:waltsamp.wordpress.com I do a non-theistic consideration of potentiality and actuality as they relate to the existence of the universe.

  4. jcbb says:

    lol! I thoroughly enjoyed this.

  5. Mike says:

    Oh my goodness, so your blog is infected with SilenceOfMind’s logical replies! We are in the same boat my friend

  6. arabman2013 says:

    The belief that the universe exists for a purpose and so do we is popular because it makes us feel special, not just a glitch in existence. The truth that we are actually insignificant and not here for a reason is a brutal truth to accept.

    This is why people won’t listen to your logic, it’s their emotions that need to be discussed.

  7. Theists will never see beyond the blinding fog of faith, even when science finally proves without a shadow of a doubt that god does not exist, they will not be able to open their eyes, or maybe the explanation would be too complicated for their atrophied brains to understand. Science will always be at a disadvantage against religion because scientific knowledge requires higher brain functions to be understood, on the other hand religious concepts can be easily grasped even by the most illiterate of persons.

  8. […] briefly touched on this subject in my article on the Cosmological Argument, but I thought I’d expand on my thoughts […]

  9. […] of nature. It is often propped up by what appear to be logical ‘proofs’ – the Cosmological proof for example – full of flaws, but the fact remains that there is not a single time in history […]

  10. […] – First thing I noted was that for a speech that is intended to show the “rationality” of Islam, it takes Hamza less than five minutes to mention – as if a fact of reality – Angels, and Satan. Hamza then moves on to present his own reworded version of the old cosmological argument, with the phrase “the universe began“, and that it was “…created by something uncreated“. He calls this a “logical explanation“. It’s important on that point to note that his “logical explanation” is completely divorced from logic at every point. I deal with the cosmological argument and its inherent illogic in another article, here. […]

  11. Ajonah says:

    There is no such thing as absolute certainty, only what makes the most sense most of the time. Accordingly, the sensible person follows what makes the most sense most of the time unless and until something else occupies that philosophical position. Regarding the universe at and from the “big bang” it makes the most sense most of the time from reasoning and available scientific progress:
    1. the current form of the universe appears to have started at the “big bang”;
    2. if before the “big bang” there was an infinite regress of other states of being then that would be absurd, as the present moment would still be waiting to happen, and so there must therefore be a finite regress to a first cause even if the regress is by one step to the first cause;
    3. its absurd to state that the first cause is absolute “nothing” or a “forever dormancy” since if there is nothing, or nothing changes in a forever dormancy, then there is no possible trigger at all whatsoever to start the universe (in other words: in a forever dormancy or nothing state where there is zero activity such that it can shown mathematically as 0+0+0 etc or 0x0x0 etc or 0-0-0 etc or 0 divided by 0 divided by 0 etc or any combination of these calculations, there will only ever be 0 and NEVER anything else);
    4. the first cause must there be more than nothing or a forever dormancy;
    5. more than nothing means something;
    6. the issue then moves to the nature of that something and whether it communicated a message to us or has expectations from us but that’s a another issue altogether for another post.

    Its simply intellectual dishonesty to say that “i don’t know” automatically is justification for there to be no first cause (apart from anything else such a position is more akin to being an agnostic rather than an athiest). Its more honest for such “athiests” to say “despite not having a more plausible explanation i reject the first cause explanation just because of my own need to satisfy my base desires and inclinations”

    Ciao

  12. […] the arguments for gods existence (usually the cosmological argument – which I try to refute here, and the teleological argument (which has been masterfully refuted by Victor Stenger – though […]

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