Saturday, January 22, 2011

Addressing Two Responses to the Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument argues for the existence of an uncaused cause that is eternal and unchangeable. There are two main responses to this argument.

1) That doesn't mean that the uncaused cause is Jesus.

There's no particular reason to argue with this response. We know about Jesus from the Bible, not from the cosmological argument.

2) If God exists as an uncaused cause, why not just assume that the universe itself is an uncaused cause?

The answer here is a bit nuanced. The cosmological argument shows that nature does not admit of an uncaused cause. Therefore, we must turn to the supernatural. However, just because the supernatural must have brought nature into being does not mean that nature can bring itself into being. In other words, this second response is an example of category error.

Let me try to clarify that a bit further. One of the foundation principles of the cosmological argument is that nothing comes from nothing. Yet, we see and say that God made all things from nothing. Does this disprove one of the premises upon which the cosmological argument is founded? No - because "nothing comes from nothing" is the way that nature operates. God is supernatural. Thus, the fact that God brings something from nothing does not violate the principle.

Perhaps it becomes even easier when you look at it this way. The cosmological argument is an argument for the fact that a creation miracle must have occurred. However, that does not mean that miracles are an ordinary part of nature. If you see a turtle on a fencepost, you don't think, "wow, I guess turtles CAN climb fences," you think, "someone put the turtle there."

You can easily see that it is absurd to say: "if someone can put a turtle there, why not just assume that the turtle can put himself there?" Yet, it is less obvious (particularly to atheists) to say that "if God can create the world from nothing, or be self-existent, or be timelessly eternal - then why not assume that the universe can be the same?"

I'm sure there are plenty of other responses, but if you ever find yourself in a discussion in which the cosmological argument comes up, perhaps you'll be able to help folks see that the universe is like a turtle on top of the fence post. Someone must have put him there - we know that because the turtle can't possibly have put himself there - just as we know that something outside of nature must have caused nature to exist.

And that something - whose identity is outside the argument - is the Lord God.



Ryan said...

"...the turtle can't possibly have put himself there..."

Is this analogy tantamount to an appeal to the uniformity of nature?

Turretinfan said...

It's obviously informal, but a more formal explanation would involve some appeal to the laws of physics and implicit in that would be the idea that the laws of physics are uniform. Usually naturalists agree that, in nature, that is true.

Ryan said...

"...implicit in that would be the idea that the laws of physics are uniform."

I may be mistaken, but I had thought you leaned towards Gordon Clark's view of science. It seems to me, however, that this quoted portion implies you are relying on inductive reasoning - as physical laws are formulated by empirical observation - to justify the idea it is absurd to look at a turtle on fence and infer that the turtle climbed the fence.

Anonymous said...

Since you brought up turtles, let me tell you one about the turtle that crashed into a wall.

The highway patrolman was dispatched to an accident involving a snail, a turtle and a wall.

When the officer came on scene, the turtle was nudged right up against the wall and the snail was on the turtle's back waiting for assistance. The turtle's impact killed him. It was determined to be death by blunt force trama.

The officer did a field investigation and asked the snail what happened.

The snail, oh, he hired the turtle to take him on a day trip around the pond, said to the officer:

"officer, I dunno, it happened so fast"!

Strong Tower said...

My wife almost never gets jokes, nat, but that was so slow she laughed immediately.

matt said...

I've seen a turtle climb a fence post. :P

Anonymous said...


I am glad your wife has a quick wit!

Of course, naturally, there were other things that occurred shortly before the fatal incident.

For instance, some other snails waiting in line for their turn taking the turtle ride that day overheard the turtle say to the snail after agreeing to take those snails for a ride around the pond: "hurry up, I don't have all day"!

Of course, those same snails also heard that snail exclaim with a note of frivolity as the turtle took off heading toward the pond: "wee wee" "what a breeze" " I never knew this could be so much fun"

Turretinfan said...


Sure. And inductive reasoning is not proof. Don't worry, though. I haven't proposed to offer proof. The turtle thing, after all, is an analogy. It operates within in the framework of scientific naturalism to show that scientific naturalism is not a coherent belief system.


Turretinfan said...


Ryan said...

How does one address the charge that your post is based upon "special pleading"?

Anonymous said...


It operates within in the framework of scientific naturalism to show that scientific naturalism is not a coherent belief system.

The reality that scientific naturalists face where their framework is mooted comes from phenomenon like these real supernatural events that happened and were recorded in the Bible that require God's gift of Faith to comprehend. Otherwise, science is silenced:

Jos 10:12 At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon."
Jos 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.
Jos 10:14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.


2Ki 20:10 And Hezekiah answered, "It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps."
2Ki 20:11 And Isaiah the prophet called to the LORD, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.

There is no wiggle room there for scientific naturalists within those verses.

I was told or read in some journal that NASA scientists had to take into account those verses in order for their math projections and their calculations to work correctly to get the Space ships to the moon and back to the earth safely.

Michael Gray said...

"I was told or read in some journal that NASA scientists had to take into account those verses in order for their math projections and their calculations to work correctly to get the Space ships to the moon and back to the earth safely."

This is not correct, unfortunately, natamllc.

This myth has floated about for quite a while, and long been debunked. It usually comes in the form that astronomers have found Joshua's long day in some discrepancy in their calculations. But without a point of reference before and after the events in question, how would it even be possible to take account of them?

Moreover, we do not know the nature of the miracle in either instance. It is possible (likely?) that there was no change to the movement of planets and suns.

Especially in the context of the limits of scientific enquiry, we should be careful to think through every 'Science proves the bible right' zinger we hear.

Sorry for the OT guys, I hope I've made sense natamllc. Thanks for your consistent encouraging posts.... and the joke!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gray,

what is the issue?

Are you arguing in favor of the Cosmo argument?

Do you agree that scientific naturalism is not a coherent belief system, or, what I was told or read was incorrect?

How would you frame the argument in light of the two Biblical references I gave, two of many I could cite?

Turretinfan said...


I guess the first step is to ask them what they think has been specially plead.


Ryan said...


The reason given (if I can recall and frame it correctly) is that in order for one to absolve a Creator from the rules of nature, one must put the Creator outside of the rules of nature. That is to say, someone accuses you of special pleading because you address the difficulty of God not having a cause by saying "God is supernatural and, therefore, is not bound by the same "rules" as nature and does not require a cause. I've been accused of special pleading by saying as much

Anonymous said...

Well, I was hoping Mr. Gray would have responded by now.

But anyway, here would be a reasonable conclusion to my story of the turtle and the snail.

You see, when the patrolman went back to his office and studied his notes taken at the scene, measuring the skid marks of the turtle's feet just before impact and taking the snail's eyewitness account of what happened that deadly day, he concluded as stated above that the turtle died of blunt force trauma. It took a bit more investigation to determine just why the turtle impacted the wall the way he did.

The measurements of the skidding showed the turtle must have been distracted because there was virtually no skid marks, just marks nearly at the moment of impact only.

Talking further with the snail the patrolman realized that the snail and the turtle were in a brisk conversation talking about their first time experiences because neither had done what they were doing before that deadly day. The snail said that the last thing he heard the turtle say before impact was "oh" and then this sudden abrupt stop. Fortunately for the snail he was secured to the turtle's back so he did not go flying forward and hit the wall himself.

The patrolman ticketed the snail for being partly responsible for the turtle being distracted by their conversation.

The patrolman believes this was what happened. The turtle, just as he was leaving on this joy ride asked the snail how he was doing to which the snail said "wee wee", there is this breeze on my eyes or something to that effect and that he was having so much fun going so fast since he never had gone that fast before.

The patrolman believes the turtle got excited about the fun he was bringing to the snail that he put some turtle effort into going "faster" than he should have plus being distracted by the conversation between the snail and himself, he was blinded by it in his mind's eye, imagining what fun was going on top of him and apparently that was enough of a distraction that he missed his turn around towards the pond and not being vigilant about what is in front of him, headed right into the wall at break neck speeds!

This story just goes to show, you should focus on what is in front of you and not what is on your back distracting you! You should live by the Faith given and let the Giver of Faith deal with the oppressors, as He promised He would, along with the oppressions! :)

Psa 72:1 Of Solomon. Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
Psa 72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
Psa 72:3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!
Psa 72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
Psa 72:5 May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
Psa 72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth!
Psa 72:7 In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
Psa 72:8 May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!
Psa 72:9 May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust!
Psa 72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
Psa 72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!
Psa 72:12 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.
Psa 72:13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
Psa 72:14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.