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Category: The Cosmological Argument

A discussion with Randal Harrison about the cosmological argument and its validity and reliability for holding a belief in a divine creator.

Randal Harrison

Hello Neil.

You presented an excellent analogy of the case for the belief God exists. Not 100%, but pretty darn close! Lol! As in the murder case, generally speaking, one single piece of evidence is not sufficient. However, when we consider the totality of the evidence, we have more confidence Indeed.

Now, your point is well made. Generally speaking one would expect that if there were 100 pieces of evidence in favor of an assertion, refuting one and leaving 99 should cause us to have an increase in doubt, or at least a decrease in certainty. But I believe one must consider how compelling that one piece of evidence was when compared to others as well as when compared to the overall case. But I have to say that in this specific case, if Randal came to the knowledge that the Cosmological Argument had been falsified, my level of certainty would remain. You might not believe that to be true, but that is my honest thought on the matter.

Neil Brown

I’m well. Just got home. I’m GMT+9.

Continuing with your murder scenario. While we can never be absolutely sure that the suspect is guilty, a large body of evidence increases our confidence. We have various sources of evidence that collectively lead us beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect is guilty. If one piece of evidence is discovered to be erroneous, then while there may still be sufficient extensive evidence to carry the motion, is it legitimate to suggest that we are as certain as we were with more evidence? Is it honest to suggest–as you did–that it “would not weaken the belief” even marginally?

Randal Harrison

Hello, Neil. I hope you are well and having a wonderful day/night????? Lol, I’m confused on the time as well! Don’t be concerned about not engaging about the Cosmological Argument just yet. There is important discussion that you are wise enough to realize prior to the argument itself. In fact, my own personal apologetics strategy discusses some of the ideas you have mentioned. My strategy establishes the idea that truth itself does, in fact, exist, and we can know truth. Secondly I like to discuss the ideas of proof and evidence. Unless you wish me to, I will forego those discussions. I think you believe that truth does exist and we can know it. I will only briefly discuss proof and evidence unless you still have questions.

I understand that you might be perplexed. I will try to provide a little more information. Hopefully it won’t confuse the issue more. The idea of belief in the existence of God is individually based. Each individual has the right to consider and either accept or discard whatever evidence they choose. Now, perhaps this will influence you to not continue our discussion, but I need to say this. It is not my intent to attempt to provide evidence that would convince 100% of the people to a level of certainty of beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists. That is impossible. My intent is to show those who read this that there is good reason to believe God exists. For some people, having their parents tell them God exists is enough. For others, even if God audibly spoke to them, it would not be enough.

Yes, I went searching for the truth. I asked a lot of questions. But since it is individualized, we can’t really dictate to each person what they can and cannot consider as evidence for God.

Now, as for the influence the refutation of the Cosmological Argument would have on me personally, please consider this. I do believe the Cosmological Argument is compelling, much like the police acquiring the murder weapon with fingerprints on it would be compelling in a murder trial. However, if other evidence included television footage of the murder, a taped recording of the accused admitting to the murder, and a confession by the accused, not having the murder weapon with fingerprints would not affect my belief. Of course we don’t have such evidence for the existence of God, but for Randal, there are other pieces of evidence which would convince me, even in the absence of the Cosmological Argument. There might be people who would renounce their faith if the argument were falsified. But my position is that the argument IS compelling and is one piece of evidence which supports the claim that God exists.

Neil Brown

Good evening Randal. I have to admit that I am a little perplexed by some of the things you said. At the outset you maintained that you were “seeking the truth” but then disclosed that, for you, there were “no rules for evidence” and that “whatever (you) wanted to consider either for or against, was completely and totally up to (you).” You asserted that your belief in God was “founded on a number of different evidences of which the Cosmological Argument (was) one” but that if this were shown to be definitively wrong your beliefs would not waver or diminish.

I did not intend to insinuate that a consummate falsification of the cosmological argument could cause you to eschew your belief in a creator. However, if the probity of that evidence has no effect (even a small one) on the attestation it is purportedly supporting, is it right to claim that it is really evidence for that belief?

I apologize for once again not delving into the minutiae of the argument itself. But if the argument’s veracity has no bearing on your belief in a creator then we might as well be deliberating over the best way to make a cup of tea.

Have a good day/night (I still haven’t figured out the time difference.)

Randal Harrison

And a very good evening to you, Neil. Yes, I reiterate that, for me, the case for the existence of God is founded on a number of different evidences of which the Cosmological Argument is one. Should I determine tomorrow that scientists had presented evidence that was so compelling to me that I no longer felt the Cosmological Argument were valid, or that the cause of the universe was determined to completely negate God as a possibility, that would not weaken my beliefs. As I discussed, it is like a court case. If one piece of evidence were excluded from being considered, the remaining evidence could still convince me to a particular level of certainty that the assertion were true.

However, to be completely open and honest, there are certain evidences that, if only one were proven false, would completely shake my faith. People can argue and bicker on the Internet about whether Noah’s Ark was real, whether the serpent spoke to Eve, if the Red Sea actually parted, etc. But there is one idea which either makes or breaks Christianity, the Resurrection of Jesus. If it really occurred, then God exists and Christianity is the one and only true religion. If Jesus was not resurrected then Christianity is false and we remain accountable for our sins. (1 Cor 15:17). That is the Gospel the early Church preached and which the Church should be preaching today, the Death, the Deity, and the Resurrection of Jesus.

I hope our discussions will continue through many of the arguments for the existence of God and eventually we discuss the Bible. But for now, the Cosmological Argument is before us.

Lover You. My Brother,

Randal

Neil Brown

Thanks Randal. Before broaching the specifics of the argument could I ask a question? I think I mentioned before that I am fascinated with epistemology–especially with the creation and alimentation of beliefs. You mentioned that “there [are] multiple pieces of evidence to consider” and that the cosmological argument is a “…compelling piece of evidence which supports the claim that God exists.” If you were to come to doubt the validity of the cosmological argument would your confidence in a creator in any way diminish?


Randal Harrison

Carl Sagan, in his immensely popular series, “Cosmos”, opened the series in 1980 with the following:

“The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”

He went on to say that the size and age of the cosmos was somewhere between immensity and eternity. Was he correct? I think not.  You might say, “That’s pretty arrogant of you, Randal, considering the company.” Perhaps.

As I proceeded in my journey for the truth about my Christian beliefs and learned about Apologetics, I learned that there is no, one giant, nail-in-the-coffin argument which would prove t0 everyone that God exists. I learned that, in my quest, I would become a juror in a mighty court case. And like a court of law, there would be multiple pieces of evidence to consider. However, unlike our court system here in the U.S., there really are no rules of evidence. Whatever I wanted to consider either for or against, was completely and totally up to me.  The Cosmological Argument is one piece of evidence to consider as one pursues the truth.  It is really several variations of the argument.  I am a big fan of the version known as Gottfried Liebniz Contingency Argument.

Consider this, if you will. I will describe two situations.  The first I will call Situation N, or Situation Nothing.  In this situation, there is nothing.  Absolutely nothing, no matter, no energy, no time, no space, no void for universe, no Heaven, no Hell, no God, no Devil, no quantum vacuums, no laws of logic, no physical laws, just absolutely nothing.

Now consider Situation E, for Situation Everything.  In this situation, there is everything which exists in our universe.  Keep that in mind, I am limiting this to the universe for now. Situation E includes all the matter, energy, time, space, dark matter, and other existence which we might not even know about.

It would be irrational and illogical to posit that the situation changed from Situation N to Situation E without some catalyst or something to cause that effect.  This is the basis of the Cosmological Argument from Contingency. It is unreasonable to assume Situation N. In the form of a syllogism, the Cosmological Argument is as follows:

Premise 1-Whatever exists does so either out of necessity of its own nature or contingently upon a cause.

Premise 2 -The universe exists.

Premise 3-The universe does not exist out of necessity.

Conclusion-Therefore, the universe exists contingently upon a cause.

From this conclusion we may inquire as to what attributes such a cause must possess. Here are a few:

  1.  Timeless (Time did not begin until universe existed)
  2. Spaceless (It must exist outside of the physical universe)
  3. Immaterial (Without matter and energy as those also were caused)
  4. Non-Physical (Without matter)
  5. Personal (There must have been the decision to act)
  6. Extremely powerful (the universe is immense and complex)

These are attributes we normally assign to God. At this point, I am not positing the Christian God, but a Supreme unembodied Mind. The Argument is logically airtight.  If none of the Premises are false, the Conclusion is without question. So this is where the discussion sets in.  Which, if any, of the three Premises are false? Those who would posit any or all of the Premises are false would be making a positive assertion and thus assume the burden of proof.  Evidence should be provided which supports the position that any Premise is false.

I close by reiterating that this one Argument does not in and of itself prove the existence of God alone.  However, I belief it is a very compelling piece of evidence which supports the claim that God exists.

Take care,

Randal

Randal Harrison

Good evening to you, Neil, and thank you for those kind words! Before I begin, I would like to say that I am honored and flattered that you would invite me to be a contributor on your website. I share your feelings that, unlike so many discussions on the internet, we have enjoyed a pleasant, respectful, and educational discussion. And I have no doubt we will continue to do so.

Just a little about me before we delve into the Cosmological Argument. I am a civil engineer by profession. I get great satisfaction from my career by designing projects that help people. My company motto is “Improving the Quality of Life.” I am also a Christian. I grew up on a small farm in Alabama, the son of Christian parents who love me very much. I prayed a sinners prayer in my mid-teens, and became a saved sinner at that time. I grew up and married the love of my life and we have one daughter.

After my wife and I married I began to have questions about my religious beliefs. I won’t say I ever held to atheism or agnosticism. I had questions for which I needed answers. My main question was this, “How do I know all of this stuff I have believed is true?” And since most of my beliefs were anchored in the Bible, “How do I know the Bible isn’t just some lie created years ago which has just been passed on over the centuries?” I admit this was difficult for me, to question beliefs I had held all my life. But I needed to know for sure. People have said, “You are not supposed to question God.” But I decided if the Bible were true and my beliefs real, they should stand up to my scrutiny.

So I began My personal Journey to find out for myself if what I had been taught and what I believed were true. My journey took somewhat the reverse course to the Apologetics method I practice. I began with seeking the truth about the Bible because that seemed to me to be the anchor of Christianity. I apologize this is so long, but wanted everyone to have an idea of who I am and how I got to where I am today.

My answers did not cause me to instantly have “Super Faith.” For me, it was a growing experience, and it still is! My years of study and research have provided me with a better founded belief than I had before. My faith and beliefs are stronger now than ever. I firmly believe that God does exist and that Christianity is the true religion. Many will argue that so do Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. I agree they do. But for me, Jesus is my Lord and Saviour!

So let us begin…

Neil Brown

Randal and I began this discourse into causality while on Twitter. Amongst all the abuse and nonsense that swamps my news feed it was a pleasure to happen upon such a cordial gentlemen. I’d like to thank Randal for agreeing to continue this conversation beyond the bounds of Twitter’s character restrictions. I hope this discussion will help us both unearth some semblance of understanding.

To commence, would you care to explicate the cosmological argument as you see it?