Since I moved to the Freethought Blogs network, I have a bunch of new readers who aren’t familiar with my greatest hits from my old, pre-FTB blog. So I’m linking to some of them, about one a day, to introduce them to the new folks.
Today’s archive treasure: Why “Everything Has a Cause” is a Terrible Argument for God. The tl;dr: Most arguments for religion aren’t really arguments, but instead are excuses or attempts to evade the argument. But when asked why they believe in God, some believers take the question seriously, and try to give arguments and evidence for their belief. So I want to return the favor, take these arguments seriously, and show exactly how terrible they are. In this post — the first of a series — I dismantle the “first cause” argument, the argument that things have to have causes, and that cause has to be God.
A nifty pull quote:
Many astronomers and astrophysicists think that the question “Where did the universe come from?” might someday be answerable. In fact, many of them strongly suspect that the answer may indeed call into question our basic understanding of cause and effect… in much the same way that Einstein’s theories called into question our basic understanding of matter and energy and space, and Galileo’s theories called into question our basic understanding of the structure of the universe. (For instance: One idea that’s being tossed around is that the beginning of the universe was the beginning, not only of matter and energy, but of space-time itself… and that it therefore makes no sense to talk about what happened “before” time itself began.) They think “Where did physical existence come from?” may be an answerable question… and they’re busily researching possible answers.
The “God did it” answer doesn’t do this. It doesn’t pose possible ways of investigating whether the God hypothesis might be the right answer to this question. It basically just says, “Everything has to have a cause… except God, who by definition can do anything.” It’s a non-answer. It insists that every question have a valid, comprehensible, cause- and- effect answer… except questions about God. It’s like a parent answering every question with, “Because I say so.” It’s what atheists call the “God of the gaps”: it takes any question about the physical world that’s currently unanswered by science, and says, “Oh, we don’t know the answer to that, therefore it must be God.” It’s like taking every empty space in the coloring book, and reflexively filling it in with a blue crayon.