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Featured The Fatal Flaw of the Cosmological Argument

Discussion in 'Theism' started by Hubert Farnsworth, Jan 9, 2019.

  1. Hubert Farnsworth

    Hubert Farnsworth Well-Known Member

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    The cosmological argument for the existence of god has many variations, but all of them boil down to something like this (or very similar): "everything in the universe has a cause, therefore the universe had a cause." Yet even if every component (object, event, etc.) in the universe has a cause, this does not logically imply that the *set* consisting of every component in the universe (the universe itself) has a cause, anymore than the fact that every human has a mother would imply that the human race has a mother (in the same literal sense of the word). The point is that even if it is true that everything in the universe must have a cause, the universe itself need not have a cause. We cannot base our assumptions about the *set* of all things based on observations of the properties of individual things in the set, since even if the properties hold true for all elements in the set, they need not hold true for the set itself.
     
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  2. viole

    viole Metaphysical Naturalist
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    yup, that has a name. It is called the composition fallacy.

    Ciao

    - viole
     
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  3. Hubert Farnsworth

    Hubert Farnsworth Well-Known Member

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    Yes, Bertrand Russell pointed the fallacy out in a debate on this subject decades ago, and I believe this pretty much ended the discussion.
     
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  4. PureX

    PureX Well-Known Member

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    Everything that exists, has been caused to exist by the actions of that which existed before. So, ... what existed before the Big Bang?
     
  5. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    We've done this before but nope, there do seem to be uncaused events in nature.
     
  6. WalterTrull

    WalterTrull Godfella

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    Definitely unexplained events. However, cause and effect is just a popular way to view the universe.
     
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  7. ratiocinator

    ratiocinator Strange Loop

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    If we take general relativity seriously, "before the Big Bang" doesn't refer to a time.
     
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  8. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    Well, the decay of radioactive atoms is impossible to predict. One atom may decay almost in the next 5 minutes or it may hang around for a thousand years. There is absolutely nothing, so far we know, that is causes the decay process to take place when it does. So in our model of the universe there are some uncaused events.

    One can assert that this is merely because we have not found the cause and will do so one day, but that is mere assertion, not backed by evidence. And meanwhile we do have a very successful theory that builds in this uncaused behaviour - Quantum Mechanics.
     
  9. PureX

    PureX Well-Known Member

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    My point was that the "cosmological argument" is not really about "the cosmos" (the physical universe), it's about the nature of existence as we perceive and understand it. And about how what was 'before' caused what came 'after' which causes what comes 'next'. Which does then beg the question; what was before "before"? What came first?

    To put it in terms of physics, the question would be where did the 'rules' that governed the way energy could and could not behave in the 'big bang' come from?
     
    #9 PureX, Jan 9, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  10. Altfish

    Altfish Well-Known Member

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    The same thing that existed before God.
     
  11. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

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    One point that theists do not seem to understand:

    There is no formal "Law of Cause and Effect" in the sciences .
     
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  12. PureX

    PureX Well-Known Member

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    "God" is just a word for the unidentified/unarticuated answer to that question.
     
  13. WalterTrull

    WalterTrull Godfella

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    I sure have read a lot of different opinions about what QM means. Some of them would say that everything is caused, just not totally predictable. I lean that direction.
     
  14. WalterTrull

    WalterTrull Godfella

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    Uhm... why theists? Cause and effect seem like the same thing, just looked at from different vantage points.
     
  15. Altfish

    Altfish Well-Known Member

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    No, "We don't know" is the correct answer.
     
  16. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

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    Perhaps you have a point. I should have said users of the Kalam argument.
     
  17. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    That, I quite agree, is something to which physics has no answer. ;)
     
  18. Hubert Farnsworth

    Hubert Farnsworth Well-Known Member

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    And you base that assumption on your observations of all of the objects WITHIN the universe, and are trying to apply this property to the universe itself (the set of all such objects). That is the fallacy.
     
  19. Hubert Farnsworth

    Hubert Farnsworth Well-Known Member

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    True. But even if there were one for every object/event in the universe, it would be a fallacy to apply the law to the universe as a whole.
     
  20. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Your statement is only true if there *are* things that existed before. In particular, it cannot be true for the start of time, which may have been at the Big Bang.
     
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