I’ve read that argument once too often now; time for my personal take on it.
What is this about anyway?
It’s about an argument used to ‘prove’ that there is a god.
Usually that conveniently happens to be the very same god of the religion that the proving person holds. The short version of it runs as follows:
1. Everything that begins does so because of a cause
2. The universe has begun
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause (this then presumably is god)
Wrong, wrong, wrong…
It’s wrong on several levels, which makes it, on the one hand, easy to dismantle, but on the other hand, where to start? It’s probably easiest simply to go through each of the statements one by one.
It starts off by being just that, a statement. If given as-is, without any evidence, it falls to the general principle that everything that is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. If it is going to be more than a statement, it needs evidence.
To get those who want to prove this statement to be true started, and to save all of us time, I suggest they start by proving that the decay of a radioactive atom (which results in the ‘beginning’ of for instance positrons and electrons that didn’t exist as such before) has a cause. When that’s settled they may want to turn to virtual particles, as those in the Casimir effect and the ones that make black holes seem to emit particles, and explain what causes these particles to appear.
Yes, the Big Bang indeed signalled the beginning of time as we know it, so by definition that is The Beginning. Even if there was something before (a Big Crunch, for instance), it is irrelevant – if for no other reason than that previous something would have to have a beginning, too.
However, anybody that brings up the cosmological argument has to accept the fact that the universe is around 13.7 billion years old. You cannot on the one hand choose to accept the science that shows us that there has been a Big Bang (cosmic background radiation, the Hubble constant, and suchlike) but at the same time reject the same science that tells us this happened 13.7 bln years ago. Accept both or accept none (and look stupid).
The third follows logically from the first two – but since the first is wrong there is not much to crow about.
There is of course no evidence whatsoever that, if indeed something did cause the beginning of the universe, this would necessarily be the god of the religion held by the person who asserts this “proof”.
Another obvious objection – pointing out a logical fallacy (special pleading, to be exact) – is the “but what caused this god (or whatever ‘prime causer’) then?”
This either fails to an infinite regression of god-creating meta-gods, unlikely in my humble opinion, or to special pleading – why would a god not need a creator itself (apart from it simply being part of the assertion-without-evidence that “god/it just doesn’t, it’s god/it!” – see above for what happens to such assertions), but the universe would? Why can’t the universe not be the element that doesn’t need a cause?
My personal peeve…
…with the cosmological argument is the same as with similar arguments that use some sort of formal logic to prove that god exists: surely something that is presupposed to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent shouldn’t rely on formal logic to be proven?!
Usually, given the paucity of direct evidence for god’s existence, believers assert that “god does not want to make himself seen” “god is unknowable” or something along those lines. This is of course a huge fail.
There is no a priori logical reasoning from which follows that any godlike being would not want to be known; I’d actually venture the opposite. There is also no infallible message from god him/her/itself that he/she/it wishes to remain anonymous; only rambling scripture, clearly thought up by humans.
That makes this assertion nothing more than an ad hoc get-out-of-jail-free-card. It is yet another case of special pleading: god is the only being that can influence the material world without being detected (which is quite peculiar if you think about it, because influencing the material world by definition is detectable), simply because, well, just because that is what god does… yeah ,sure.
So… THAT is why this argument, like every other argument for the existence of a god/gods, does not impress me.