The Cosmological Argument from Existential Causality
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), famous for his mammoth work Summa Theologiae and his five reasons for God’s existence (which cover only about two pages). His first three reasons were cosmological type arguments of which the following is a summary.
1) There are contingent (limited and dependant) beings that exist.
2) Adding contingent beings together will not give an unlimited and independent whole.
3) Therefore, the sum total of contingent beings (the universe) is itself contingent
4) Therefore, the ultimate cause of the continuing existence of contingent beings must be a necessary being.
Two Common Refutations:
It is non-specific:
The objecting is the argument does not identify God, but only a non-specific first cause which could be a natural phenomenon like elementary particles or the big bang.
It is true the argument is limited in its scope and what it contends to prove. The argument is enough, however to defeat atheistic naturalism which holds that the universe is a closed causal network. Further, a uniquely identifying characteristic is all one needs to identify an object (even if it is the only characteristic you know of), and the argument does give us a uniquely identifying characteristics.
The objector will say the argument commits this informal fallacy because if all the parts of the universe have one property it does not require the whole universe to have that quality. This fails to distinguish between emergent properties and additive properties.
Placing one tile next to another tile, next to another tile and so on creates a tile floor. This is an additive property. It’s clear that the floor will be tiled if the entire floor is composed of tiles, or if every tile added was green, the tile floor would be green. In the same way, as every part of the ocean is wet, the ocean will also be wet.
But an emergent property is susceptible to the fallacy of composition. An example would be because every tile is cheap, the entire floor is cheap. The property of expense is emergent. In the same way, because every part of the ocean is lightweight, it does not follow that the ocean is lightweight.
Weight and expense are emergent properties while greenness and tiled-ness are additive properties. Contingency is also an additive property and so we rightly draw the conclusion that the sum total of the contingent beings (the universe) is contingent itself. It is like the watch with no spring. It doesn’t matter if there is an infinite series of cogs, there still needs to be a prime mover.
What follows about the nature of this first cause, or prime mover?
This property of the first uncaused cause requires an additional sub-argument. Aquinas resolves this by supposing there were two first uncaused causes, FC1 and FC2, and employing the logical law of identity – if two things are exactly alike in every respect then they are the same. If FC1 differed from FC2 in anyway then one would have a characteristic the other would not. If FC1 lacked something FC2 had then it would be limited or caused not to have it. But that is impossible because FC1 is uncaused. Therefore any two uncaused first causes have to be strictly identical and therefore there would only be one of them.
Strangely it is not a slight to call God simple. It means that God has no contingent parts. Therefore he is immaterial. It also means that God is changeless for he cannot add or subtract parts of what He is, and God is one thing. Together the attributes of simplicity and uniqueness form logical boundaries for the concept of God and the doctrine of the Trinity.
A necessary, uncaused first cause will be itself be unlimited. Not limited by spacial or temporal confinements, he is therefore omnipresent and eternal. The scope of this being expands out to include much of what is known as “perfect being theology.”
Both Francis Schaffer and Norman Geisler expand Thomas’ original argument out with sub-arguments to include the faculties sufficient for personhood, namely knowledge and will. Briefly, the argument says that since the universe contains persons who are rational, social, moral and free the first cause must also posses these attributes.
Norman Geisler, Winfried Corduan