Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guest Post: Further Discussion of the Cosmological Argument

Hi there! My name is Brandon, and Josh has graciously allowed me to post some of my thoughts on his blog. Per his request, here’s just a little about myself before we begin: I’m a grad student at Caltech working on my PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Before that, I attended New Mexico Tech for my BS in ME, and before that, I graduated high school with the best homeschool education anyone could ask for. I love discussing and studying anything having to do with mathematics, physics, computer science, philosophy, or theology. (Or politics, but that’s kind of irrelevant on this blog.) I’ve been a Christian all my life, and I am a strong proponent of intellectual Christianity. I’m an “open theist” (kind of like being an Armenian, but more so) and believe strongly in the home church model. I think that about covers it, so let’s get on to the Cosmological Argument.

The Cosmological Argument (CA) has been discussed previously by Josh, and the conclusion was that it is not a good argument to use. I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective of the CA from the version William Craig used and which was discussed on the blog previously. Although the CA is often misused (for instance, by Craig) it is not without its place in the collection of arguments supporting God’s existence.

I’d like to start off with what the Cosmological Argument is not:
-It is not an argument that is likely to convince anyone of the truth of Christianity.
-It is not an argument that can prove the existence of God.

On the other hand, here’s what the Cosmological Argument is:
-It is scientifically valid.
-It is an argument that can strongly support (or at least, allow for) the existence of God.

I’ll list my version of the CA in more technical terms using a numbered premise format:

1. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the amount of entropy in the universe is always increasing. In other words, the amount of “useful energy” is always being used up. (Useful energy means energy that may be harnessed to do work.)

2. If the useful energy in the universe is always being used up, then after an infinite amount of time, it will all be gone.

3. If the universe has always existed for an infinite amount of time, all the usable energy would be gone.

4. The usable energy is not gone yet.

5. Therefore, the universe has not always existed: it must have had a starting point at some point in the past.
(This may seem a bit pedantic—after all, many scientists already believe that the universe started with the “big bang.” Hang with me.)

6. At some point in the past (probably when the universe began), usable energy must have been put into the universe.

7. By the laws of physics, it is impossible for usable energy to be spontaneously generated, so the universe must have undergone a non-physical process when the usable energy was put in.

8. If something is non-physical, it is impossible for us to explain it with the laws of physics. (By definition)

9. We do not know what started the universe, and we cannot explain it using our laws of physics.

William Craig’s mistake here is jumping immediately to “Well, God must have created it!” That is not the conclusion that can be drawn from the last premise! That goes far beyond the scope of this argument.

The real power of the CA is as follows. The scientific community often leads the general population to believe that everything has been figured out and explained. While they have a number of theories about what started the universe, they must all be (as we proved above) unscientific. As long as that is the case, it requires just as much faith to provide a natural explanation for the universe as it does a supernatural one.

The CA does not prove the existence of God, but it demonstrates scientifically that the existence of some supernatural being could provide a very good explanation for the creation of the universe.

And that’s my take on the Cosmological Argument! Thoughts?

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