The Atheist Cosmological Argument

I said the other day in passing that, “…theism is not unverifiable. Its contradiction is incoherent, so it must be true. Just why that’s so is a topic for another post.”

This is that post.

Take “cosmos” to mean everything whatever that is contingent – that is, i.e., not necessary. The classical theist cosmological argument, then:

  1. All contingent actuality is caused.
  2. The cosmos is contingent.
  3. The cosmos is actual.
  4. Ergo, the cosmos is caused.

Since “cosmos” is defined to include everything that is contingent, the only possible cause of the cosmos is something that is not contingent – that is, i.e., necessary, thus eternal, and itself uncaused: in a word, God.

The atheist cosmological argument:

  1. All contingent actuality is caused.
  2. The cosmos is contingent.
  3. The cosmos is not caused.
  4. Ergo, the cosmos is inactual.

It’s a valid argument!

Unfortunately, its conclusion is counterfactual. Too bad.

The third premise is the atheist distinctive. It forces the absurd conclusion.

All but the most extremely nominalist atheists will object, of course. Their usual objection is to the first premise. They rarely choose to notice that to the extent contingent actuality is uncaused, it is not intelligible, on account of the fact that it has not sufficient reasons to completely determine its character. It is then an instance of chaos. But chaos is the death of thought, and so is it the impossibility of understanding. It is insanity. No one wants to go there, not even most atheists.

Sometimes the objection is to the contingency of the cosmos. Such is the recourse of the determinists. But determinism too is the death of thought, the impossibility of understanding; for, under determinism, what is could not be otherwise, and so stands in no need of explanation; so that there is really no such thing as explanation in the first place.

So atheists quickly move on to question the second premise. They propose that the cosmos has always existed, and so needs no cause. They don’t notice that the whole congeries of events comprising the cosmos, howsoever great its temporal extent, is contingent: there might never have been such a thing as time, or times. Times are not *necessary.* They are contingent. So they *had* to have been caused.

Poor things. We should not be surprised that they generally seem so angry. The whole of nature must seem a threat to them, portending their doom.

As, indeed, it is, and does. No wonder they are frightened by it.

17 thoughts on “The Atheist Cosmological Argument

  1. How did General Washington once put it?:

    ‘A man would lose his reason in attempting to account for the great phenomena of the universe without recourse to a Supreme Being.’

    Or something very close to that. Anyway, good stuff!; brings back old memories.

  2. Pingback: The Atheist Cosmological Argument | @the_arv

  3. Pingback: The Atheist Cosmological Argument | Reaction Times

  4. The conclusion that the cosmos is caused implies also that the cosmos is a realm of freedom, in which intentionality has real and recursive consequences for the conscious subject. One reason for the atheist’s stubbornness in clinging to his bad syllogism, as I see it, is his fear of freedom. You can’t be free while floating in the air; you can only be free with your feet on the ground.

    • Yes. No ultimate ground of order → no order whatever. It’s that simple. And, no order → no possibility of ordered acts; i.e., no freedom. But if you are worried about your culpability, a deficit of freedom is not so very unwelcome.

  5. The atheist might argue that nothing is contingent, that nothing can be other than what it is since what is is all that is by definition.

    • That would be a particularly clever atheist. But it won’t do. What is not contingent is not caused. But science is the project of discovering the logos of causation. If nothing is caused, then there is no such logos; for, then, things are not related to each other. Then there are no fit objects of scientific inquiry, and thus no way to understand things. The result is that meaningful propositions become impossible. This includes the proposition that nothing is contingent.

    • Nothing cannot envelope “contingency.” “It” is nothing. “It” is devoid of everythere INCLUDING ALL contingencies.

  6. “there might never have been such a thing as time, or times. Times are not *necessary.* They are contingent. So they *had* to have been caused.”

    this seems to treat Time as an object within Time, so that a “history of time” would be possible. that’s enough reason to be skeptic, I’d think.

    “They rarely choose to notice that to the extent contingent actuality is uncaused, it is not intelligible, on account of the fact that it has not sufficient reasons to completely determine its character. It is then an instance of chaos. But chaos is the death of thought, and so is it the impossibility of understanding. It is insanity. No one wants to go there, not even most atheists.”

    cowardice shouldn’t be an argument. it seems pretty obvious that whatever the ultimate reality of the cosmos is, it may well be beyond (human) understanding, so that we may never be able to apprehend it (but it can apprehend us). humbleness would demand us to recognize that we are just unequipped to cognize the cosmos.

    i’m think which texts from Land i should link, but i’d say these four give the idea of how intractable the problem is:

    http://www.xenosystems.net/simulated-gnon-theology/
    http://www.xenosystems.net/gnon-theology-and-time/
    http://www.xenosystems.net/what-is-philosophy/
    http://www.xenosystems.net/what-is-philosophy-part-2a/

    all this to say that the cosmos might be contingent, caused and unintelligible nonetheless.

    • [A]ll this to say that the cosmos might be contingent, caused and unintelligible nonetheless. — cyborg__nomade

      This ^^^ does not make sense. This memetic line of thought literally leaves one senseless. Per the fallacy of “universal equality,” “cause” and “contingency” ARE unintelligible.

      • This ^^^ is not quite right because you cannot write conclusively about what others can sense or not sense. What you meant to write was that, “The whole point is that MY SENSES are not enough to know.” If you read Kristor with an increased sensitivity then you will acknowledge that he concedes to no such lack of sense to know as it relates to the origin of the cosmos. Although, he would add that he can sense his inability to know All Things thoroughly (he knows many, many things, but he is not omniscient). And clearly, there is no contradiction between possessing a sense of Perfection and confessing to a lack of total knowledge of said Perfection.

    • But chaos is the death of thought, and so is it the impossibility of understanding. It is insanity. No one wants to go there, not even most atheists.

      Cowardice shouldn’t be an argument.

      It’s not that chaos is scary (for it isn’t anything definite at all); it is that – precisely because it is completely indefinite – chaos is the zero of philosophy.

      Proposals that reality is fundamentally unintelligible are self-refuting. If reality is fundamentally unintelligible, then we can’t know or say anything intelligible – including the statement that we can’t know or say anything intelligible. A proposition that is self-refuting cannot be true.

      So however difficult it is, admittedly, for us to make sense of things, it must be possible to do so.

      … there might never have been such a thing as time, or times. Times are not *necessary.* They are contingent. So they *had* to have been caused.

      This seems to treat Time as an object within Time, so that a “history of time” would be possible.

      It doesn’t. Times are essential internal dimensions of worlds. To say that there might never have been such a thing as time amounts to saying that there might never have been such a thing as a world. That said, it is perfectly possible to have worlds within worlds. But what I was getting at was that no worlds are necessary, so nor therefore are their times. Thus even if there was a world that was per impossibile infinitely old, being contingent it would still in its entire temporal extent require a cause.

      It seems pretty obvious that whatever the ultimate reality of the cosmos is, it may well be beyond (human) understanding …

      This is a given. Only omniscience could comprehend ultimacy.

      Humbleness would demand us to recognize that we are just unequipped to cognize the cosmos.

      Our incapacity to comprehend ultimacy does not entail an incapacity to understand at all. We can’t know all of what God knows; that doesn’t mean we can’t know anything.

      I’ll read those essays you linked and get back to you about them.

      • “true” or “false” already supposes we can make sense out of the world, rather than just playing word games with no purchase on reality. nonetheless, I’m probably being too radical here. so, perhaps, “most of the cosmos isn’t comprehensible to our cognitive apparatus” is enough. we may be smart enough to admit we can’t know anything else.

        Times are essential internal dimensions of worlds.

        I’d flip that and say that worlds are properties of Time-in-itself, and that, as much as things *in time* are finite and thus contingent, Time-in-itself is trans temporal and thus cannot have a history of its own.

      • “True” or “false” already supposes we can make sense out of the world, rather than just playing word games with no purchase on reality.

        To be sure. But there is no alternative to that supposition. Because the supposition that we can make sense is the only way that we can then go on to suppose that we might mean something by what we say, the only way that we can meaningfully suggest that, “what we say is nothing more than word games with no purchase on reality,” is if the suggestion itself is wrong. The possibility that we might be correct and meaningful in our thoughts and words is then the forecondition of the possibility that we might now and then err or spout nonsense. If everything is nonsense, then nonsense isn’t even nonsense, and error is impossible. But notice that if error is impossible, then no statement is errant, including the statement that error is possible, and the statement that knowledge is possible.

        No matter which way we turn, we are led back inexorably to the position that some knowledge is possible to us, albeit not all.

        I’d flip that and say that worlds are properties of Time-in-itself, and that, as much as things *in time* are finite and thus contingent, Time-in-itself is trans-temporal and thus cannot have a history of its own.

        This appears to be saying the same thing I said. Time is a dimension of relation between events within the history of some world. Julius Caesar lived before Napoleon, and Churchill lived after him. The world as a whole, however, has no temporal relations to itself. Nor likewise has it any spatial dimension. Its temporal and spatial extent are mensurable only from perspectives internal to it.

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s