Since so many over the years seem to be impressed and convinced by this empty rhetoric, I will devote considerable time to expose its flaws. This Cosmological Argument, sometimes also known as the First Cause Argument, states that all effects have causes, except for the uncaused first cause, which we must then regard as a god. Four separate key problems, each standing on their own, sufficiently invalidate this line of argument. While reasonable justification for parts of the Cosmological Argument would be millions of times more valuable for Deism than the Bible would ever hope to be, this line of reasoning is not without its major problems.
1) Causes and effects do not belong to an established relationship in physical science. Quite the contrary to the claim that all effects require causes, the field of quantum mechanics is based on the principle of non-causality. Creation of strings,[i] creation of matter and antimatter from a vacuum, and perhaps radioactive decay are three examples of processes that we currently believe do not necessarily require a cause. This proposition, if correct, invalidates the presumption that “all effects have causes” and consequently destroys the argument. The matter produced by vacuum fluctuation is composed of equal positive and negative energy. Mathematically, the positive energy cancels out the negative energy so that a sum of no energy was created. It is feasible to propose that the universe itself is composed of a sum of zero energy, which according to known physical law, is no less possible than the complete absence of mass-energy from the universe. One might even consider nothingness to be unstable, and the creation of matter to be inevitable.
2) Causes and effects are universal concepts. If we assume, for a moment, that the universe has not always existed, we cannot apply supposed laws of the universe (e.g. all effects have causes) to explain how the universe came into existence. Assuming the existence of universal laws, which are of course characteristics of the universe, before the existence of the universe itself is an absurd strategy for the apologist to take. Furthermore, the practice of discussing anything that may have existed prior to the universe is epistemologically meaningless. Dictating the rules of logic outside of the universe is like supposing the properties of numbers that are greater than infinity.
3) Existence must necessarily precede cause. Moreover, something cannot cause an effect unless it first exists. Here we see that existence must be the first component of the universe. Even if there were a physical law of causes and effects, existence is first necessary. Therefore, something must exist before it can become part of a causal relationship. The question now becomes, “Exactly what is it that we should suppose first existed, regardless of whether it has existed eternally or without cause?” The much more simple explanation is that the universe is the first “uncaused existence.”[ii] Interjecting a creator into the mix only needlessly complicates the issue because the existence of the universe already gives us what we need.
Even if we propose that all effects except the first one require a cause, why must an infinitely complex creator need to be part of the solution? Would not even a breakdown in physical law be a much more simple explanation than the existence of an unlimited presence? While the influences and persuasions of society may not make it seem much more feasible to say that the universe would be that which first existed, the facts are what they are. There is absolutely nothing to rule out the possibility that the universe is an oscillating or eternal phenomenon.[iii] Besides, since we have already established that matter can likely arise spontaneously from a zero energy state, we already have a working hypothesis. If we refuse this deduction, we not only have to explain the origin of the god, but also explain how the same reasoning for this god cannot be applied to the origin of the universe.
4) The argument contradicts itself by attempting to circumvent its own axiom that “all effects have causes” by baselessly inserting an exception: “God is the uncaused effect.” An updated version of the Cosmological Argument, called the Kalam Argument,[iv] changes the assertion that “all effects have causes” to “all things that begin to exist have causes” in order to erase this fourth objection. In other words, “God is an uncaused effect because he has always existed.” The argument is now cleverly disguised as an ad hoc explanation because it deals with all things, which necessarily exist, except the hypothesized God, prejudicially excluded through special pleading, simply because this is the intent of the argument. In other words, the argument deliberately excludes from scrutiny what it hopes to prove through scrutiny. Furthermore, the updated argument still does not address the three previous points.
[i] A string is a theoretical one-dimensional object whose existence unifies several theories of physics. String theories are in turn unified by M-theory. Interesting stuff, but off-topic.
[ii] The universe with its strictest definition of all existence, not the universe as we now perceive it. Our observable universe obviously began about fourteen billion years ago with the Big Bang.
[iii] Recent evidence of an accelerating universe works against the idea of an oscillating universe. If the matter within the universe is accelerating away from its point of origin, gravitational forces among the matter might not be sufficient to pull everything back together.
[iv] This argument comes from William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith. Craig is widely considered by believers and skeptics to be the best on his side of the debate.