How does the cosmological argument support the existence of God?
In his "The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics," Martin Heidegger asks the primary question in philosophy, which is: Why do we have something rather than nothing at all? The question may seem abstract at first, but the essential issues Heidegger raises are ones that we all will wrestle with at some point. Why are we here and where has everything that we know come from?
Subscribe to our Compelling Mail Newsletter:
It should first be pointed out that the atheist and the theist both believe in the eternal. As succinctly pointed out by the great theologian Jonathan Edwards, you must go back to something that is eternal because, as Edwards put it,
• Something exists
• You don't get something from nothing
• Therefore, a necessary and eternal 'something' must exist
The atheist claims that the eternal 'something' is the natural universe; whereas the theist says an eternal Creator brought everything we know into existence. The question then becomes, which possibility is supported by the best evidence?
Scientists are unequivocal in their response that the universe we know and live in is not eternal. Every intellectually honest drop of evidence points to the fact that the universe – at some point in the past – exploded out of nothing into what we know today.
Anything that has a beginning (such as our universe) cannot be eternal and therefore must have a cause beyond and/or behind it. The Scottish skeptic David Hume admitted as much when he wrote, "I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause." This truth can be put into the following series of logical statements:
• Everything that begins to exist must have a cause
• The universe began to exist
• Therefore, the universe had a cause
Because there are only two, eternal 'somethings' that are possible – the universe and a Creator – and one of them has been ruled out by all the evidence we have, a reasonable conclusion is that an eternal Creator is the cause for why we have something rather than nothing at all. This line of argumentation is often called the cosmological argument for the existence of God.
However, critics have tried to attack this argument in two general, philosophical ways. The first has been through asking the question, "If everything needs a cause, then who caused God?" The British skeptic, Bertrand Russell (influenced by philosopher J. S. Mill), tried to argue against the cosmological argument in just such a fashion. However, both Russell and Mill commit two errors when they attempt to undo the cosmological argument. First, they commit the logical error of a category mistake – you cannot cause the uncaused or create the uncreated. Second, the cosmological argument does not say that everything needs a cause, but only those things that have a beginning. God, who has no beginning and is uncaused, needs no cause.
The second attack on the cosmological argument has come from atheistic scientists who have proposed other possible causes for our universe. The two main options put forth are the multi-verse (multiple universes) hypothesis and the quantum mechanics theory that purports things can arise and come into existence without a cause.
However, both alternatives fail when studied closely. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem has scientifically proven that that even if our universe is just a tiny part of a so-called "multiverse" composed of many universes, the multiverse must have had an absolute beginning. In other words, it also requires a cause.
As for the quantum mechanics proposal, it is simply not true that things begin to exist from nothing in a quantum mechanics environment. Anything arising results from fluctuations in the quantum vacuum, which is not "nothing" by definition. Instead, it comes from energy that is locked in the vacuum, which is a sea of fluctuating energy governed by physical laws having a physical structure. No evidence suggests that things come into being from nothing in quantum mechanics.
Both the multiverse and quantum mechanics arguments are examples of what in philosophy is called "drowning the fish." You can use all the water in the oceans in an attempt to drown the fish, but in the end, it will still be there affirming its existence and presence.
In the end, the cosmological argument for God stands intact. The reason we have something rather than nothing is because, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Rather than being defeated by modern science (as is the eternal universe claim), the opening line of the Bible is supported by science. Quantum chemist Henry F. Schaeffer says, "A Creator must exist. The Big Bang ripples and subsequent scientific findings are clearly pointing to an ex nihilo creation consistent with the first few verses of the book of Genesis."
Dr. John Lennox sums up the overall matter of the cosmological argument well when he writes: "There are not many options – essentially just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second."
Does God exist?
Can the existence of God be proven?
How does the teleological argument support the existence of God?
How does the moral argument support the existence of God?
Who created God?
Truth about Worldview and Apologetics