Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Contingency of the World (Pt. II)

Yesterday, we discussed the Argument from Contingency as it has been formulated by philosophers Stephen Davis and William Lane Craig, following the 17th century genius Gottfried Leibniz. Leibniz can rightly be called a genius because he was not only a philosopher and theologian but also a mathematician who invented (simultaneously with, but independently of, Isaac Newton) the mathematics of calculus.

The argument, in outline, runs as follows:
  1. Any entity that exists must have an explanation for its existence, either in itself or in something else.
  2. The universe exists.
  3. Therefore, the universe has an explanation for its existence, either in itself or in something else (from 1 & 2).
  4. If the universe has an explanation, that explanation is God.
  5. Therefore, God exists (from 3 & 4).
We noted yesterday that this argument is valid so that if the premises all turn out to be true then the conclusion must be true. We then inquired as to the truth of the premises noting that premise 2 is obviously true and premise 3 clearly follows from premises 1 and 2. That left us with ascertaining the truth of premises 1 and 4. We discussed 1 yesterday and will look at 4 today.

I closed yesterday's post by saying that 4 is simply a restatement of what most atheists believe. Here's why: Most atheists assert that the universe has no explanation at all. In the words of the famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell, it's just there. Its existence is a brute, inexplicable fact. In other words, if there is no God to have created the universe then there just is no explanation for its existence. Since atheist thinkers believe there is no God to have created the universe then they believe that the universe has no explanation.

But consider that claim: If there is no God then the universe has no explanation for its existence. This is logically equivalent to saying that if the universe does have an explanation then there is a God who created it. In other words, if the universe has an explanation then that explanation is God which is what premise 4 states.

So premises 1, 2, 3, and 4 all seem to be accepted, even by the atheist, as true, which means that 5 is true also.

Now, this conclusion could be avoided by admitting that the universe must have an explanation, but that either a) the explanation is that it's necessarily existent, which we considered yesterday, or b) the explanation is something other than God. We saw yesterday that it's more reasonable to think the universe is a contingent rather than a necessary entity so adopting a) seems to be an unfruitful strategy. What, though, about b)? Could the explanation of the universe be something other than God?

We need first to understand what a cause of the universe would be like. Since the universe is all of space, time, and matter whatever explains it must itself be non-spatial, non-temporal, and immaterial. The only kinds of things which could exist and fit this description would be either abstract objects, like numbers or concepts, or disembodied minds. However, abstract objects, if they exist, don't cause anything. The number 7 doesn't bring anything about, nor does the concept of, say, justice, by itself, have any causal efficacy.

That leaves us with a mind as the ultimate explanation for the universe, and any mind that is a sufficient explanation for the universe must be extraordinarily powerful, intelligent, and purposeful. Moreover, if it's intelligent and purposeful it's also personal.

In other words, the most plausible explanation for the universe is a being that has many of the characteristics traditionally attributed to God.

Here's a short video that might help to make the argument a bit clearer: