There is a common argument for theism that I have seen many times online, but I only heard it for the first time earlier today. It basically goes like this:
- Everything that exists had a beginning
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause
- The Universe exists
- Therefore the Universe had a beginning
- Therefore the Universe had a cause
- I call this cause, the creator of the Universe, God
The argument typically also states or implies that this god exists and has no creator itself. I just quickly want to go over 3 problems with this argument.
The premise on which this argument rests is essentially “Everything that begins had a cause”. However, the “solution” to the problem of the Universe’s existence posited in this argument is that a god exists, which both exists and has no cause. God is created as a special exception to that universal rule. This is a logical fallacy known as “special pleading”. In this case, at least, it basically means that the conclusion of the argument is inconsistent with its premises.
The premise that “Everything that exists had a cause” seems intuitive. After all, causality is pretty well-established as a fundamental law of the Universe. However, it is far from unproven. Not only that, but no evidence has been put forward in order to support it. In fact, if this law were to be applied in totality, then you would end up with an infinite regression.
For example, let’s say one thing exists – let’s call it A. Because A exists, it must have had a creator. It can’t be its own creator, though, because the law of causality means the thing that caused it must have been from before it existed. So, a separate object – let’s call it B – must also exist in order to be the creator of A. However, the same logic that we just applied to A also applies to B; something else must exist in order to be the creator of B. So long as the law that “Everything that exists had a cause” holds, this continues ad infinitum.
The solution to this problem put forth in this argument is an eternal creator that is exempt to this law. Remember that, because the solution is exempt to the law that created the problem in the first place, this is special pleading. However, this is not the only possible solution. The solution that I think is most likely to be true is simply that this law, that “Everything that exists had a cause”, is false. This view is, as far as I am aware, backed up by the latest science in cosmology. For example, see the excellent lecture by Lawrence Krauss on YouTube, A Universe from Nothing.
Says Nothing About Any God
Even if, for the sake of argument, I agree that this absolutely proves that the Universe had a creator, so what? There is nothing, aside from the fact that it apparently created the universe, that we could say about the creator. Even if I also agreed that, for example, a Jewish man that lived 2000 years ago rose from the dead, and even if I agreed that he had magical powers that enabled him to perform such magic as multiplying bread and fish, and turning water into wine, so what? There is still absolutely no evidence that this Jew is in any way the same thing that created the Universe.
The same logic applies to any other supposed God. There is no reasonable method by which we could assign extra attributes to this hypothetical thing that created the universe. There are no observations, no data at all. Remember, this thing hasn’t been observed, but (for the sake of argument only) proven via logic. You’d need a whole other (very good) argument in order to be able to reasonably say that this thing that created the Universe is also this thing that made the burning bush speak.