Over on For the Sake of Science (Another mislabeled blog which rarely deals with science) Michael Hawkins purports to deal with “the top five worst theistic arguments”. For the purposes of this response, I am only going to deal with one, partly because he gives the others short shrift in a typically strawman-ish way. Also, if he were approaching the issue seriously, you think he would deal with the top five best arguments; after all, what does it prove if you deal with your opponent’s weakest points?
It really should suffice to demonstrate how strong this one argument really is – once that is demonstrated that this argument doesn’t ‘fail’ at all, it should put to rest the notion that there are no strong arguments for the existence of God. The argument he addresses is as follows, and I quote:
1. The first cause argument: This posits that everything in the Universe has a cause, therefore something outside the Universe must have caused the Universe itself to exist.
Actually, this is a very simple version of the argument, which I laid out in its complete form here. But we will deal with his objections as he stated them.
First, why not say Nature is the first cause? Not Nature in the sense of all that is within the Universe, but in the sense of a mindless actor which exists independently of the Universe, a sort of God without the intention; God only acts as a middleman.
I found this response rather hilarious. So based on our observation of the universe we can apparently assume there is a Nature beyond nature, one that ‘exists independently’ of the laws that govern this universe.
And what should we call this ‘Nature’ that exists outside of nature? I believe it already has a name – the Supernatural. So apparently the refutation that God exists is that the Supernatural exists. I believe this is referred to in debates as ‘giving away the store’.
Second, what caused God? If he is without cause, where is the evidence?
It’s not a matter of evidence, it is a matter of logic – if the cause of the universe was caused, then we can ask, what caused that cause? And the cause before that? Very shortly we realize this leads to an infinite regress, which is an impossibility. So then it follows there must be at some point an ‘uncaused cause’ which is the point of the whole argument.
Third, we don’t even know if everything must have a cause. Of course, we know that everything which exists within the Universe must have a cause, but that says nothing of whether or not the Universe itself must be caused. (Note the distinction I wish to make: we know that what is within the Universe has cause, but the Universe as a complete entity is a different story.)
Now, contrary to the previous point that we have to have evidence that God was uncaused, we apparently need no evidence that the universe was uncaused; that would be an internal contradiction. It also leads to a few other problems.
For example, we know the universe as it is began to exist; if there was no cause of its existence then somehow the universe caused itself to exist, another logical impossibility.
And if we assume that entities or objects can simply exist without cause, then how do we know anything was ’caused’ to exist? It completely undermines the principle of causality all together, the foundation of scientific exploration – not to mention the basis for rational thought, since a reality where events could occur and objects come into existence with no cause would not be subject to rational consideration, undermining any logical consideration of any subject.
So that pretty much demolishes his objections – he acknowledges a ‘supernatural’ cause is a reasonable conclusion from what we know of the universe, he tries to employ a fallacious infinite regression to counter the argument, and then after arguing God requires a cause, he suggests the abandonment of rational thought by dismissing the need for causes all together completely undermining the rational basis of his own objections.
Thus, the need for a uncaused first cause is affirmed, and this evidence for God stands.